'Ukraine's bloodiest day', WhatsApp billionaire and Met Office floods 'mistake'

Independence Square, Kiev, 20 February 2014 Image copyright Getty Images

The images on the front of many papers reveal the extent of the chaos in Kiev, where 75 people have died in clashes since Tuesday.

And the dispatches from foreign correspondents paint a grim picture. "Blood and black ash smeared the once-pristine floors of Kiev's Hotel Ukraine," writes Christopher Miller in the Independent.

"Dining tables, hastily shoved together, became makeshift hospital beds for the injured; the cold ground was a crude morgue."

The Telegraph's David Blair finds an equally distressing scene: "For a moment, the white blanket serving as a shroud fell back, revealing the dead man's frozen face and a crimson bullet wound on the left side of his head."

Image copyright AFP

A powerful image used large on the front of the Guardian shows a crowd of seemingly everyday folk paying respects to eight dead men, laid out on the ground.

The scene is captured by Ben Hoyle, for the Times: "Eight bodies lay wrapped in Ukrainian flags outside the central post office in what is usually Kiev's busiest shopping street, their heads propped on blankets with candles glowing next to them. Priests in black felt hats and brightly patterned scarves chanted prayers. A woman dropped to her knees and wept."

Most papers quote doctors suggesting the deaths were the work of snipers: "There were single bullets to the head, to the heart, and to the lungs. They were all killed by gunshots," the Guardian quotes one as saying.

"I couldn't stay at home and watch TV," a volunteer medic tells the Daily Telegraph. Another nurse, reports the Times, tweeted a picture of herself with a neck wound, saying simply: "I'm dying." It was unclear whether she survived.

'Echoes of Yugoslavia'

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Peter Beaumont, in the Guardian, views the situation "spiralling rapidly out of control" and says much of the country's pro-Brussels west is in "open revolt" against President Viktor Yanukovych, after his rejection of an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with Russia.

However, the largely Russian-speaking East remains allied to its former Soviet ruler, fuelling fears of a split.

In the Independent, Marcus Tanner hears echoes of Yugoslavia's disintegration, writing: "Catholics versus Orthodox, self-styled pro-Europeans versus others looking eastwards - several of the factors at work in the Yugoslav maelstrom are visible in Ukraine... Politicians need to bear in mind that once the death toll has passed a certain point, it is almost impossible to stitch a country back together."

For Roger Boyes, in the Times, the West has allowed itself to be "wrong-footed by an authoritarian regime propped up by the Kremlin", notably through its reluctance to ease Ukraine's entry into the EU.

The papers applaud the EU's sanctions against those officials responsible for the bloodshed but the Times says they are insufficient, calling for European leaders to hasten President Yanukovych's departure.

"The West has failed to show leadership," says the Telegraph, arguing that silence is "no longer an option" and that it must be united in calling for self-determination and civil liberties. "Justice and human rights are universal principles, not ones that stop at the borders of Russia's sphere of influence," the paper says.

Migrant billionaire

Image copyright AP

There's a happier tale for one Ukrainian, at least. The Daily Mirror charts the rise of Jan Koum, who became a billionaire when he sold instant messaging service WhatsApp. "Born into poverty in communist Europe, he taught himself computer code and sold his idea to Facebook for £11.4bn," the paper says.

Koum, who emigrated to the US aged 16, swept shop floors when he was on the breadline, says the Times, noting how he returned to the now-derelict California social services office where he once queued for food stamps to sign the deal.

Papers reproduce the signed, hand-written note of co-founder Brian Acton which sets out the three principles of the service used by 450 million people: "No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!"

"How these principles align with Facebook's remains to be seen," says the Independent. Matt Warman, in the Daily Telegraph, sees Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defending its empire and wonders: "What drives the man who wants to connect us all?"

However, the Financial Times examines Zuckerberg and his rival at Google, Larry Page, going head to head in a "deal frenzy" that's seen $50bn (£30bn) spent on "big bet" tech deals this year. Suggesting it recalls the dotcom bubble of 2000, the paper hears from one dealmaker who says of the WhatsApp deal: "It is a quite unbelievable price to pay for something that provides no clear route to revenues."

Zuckerberg has already made one costly mistake, notes the Guardian: "Not buying WhatsApp this week, but turning down... Acton for a job back in 2009."

The deal is good news for the richest man in Wales, says the Daily Mail. Tech investor Sir Michael Moritz netted £2.3bn - 60 times the sum he originally ploughed in to the business.

Drier than usual?

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The fallout from the floods continues to make headlines and this time it's weather forecasters who come in for criticism.

"Could Met Office have been more wrong?" asks the Daily Mail, reporting that the agency issued a three-month forecast in November predicting a "drier than usual" winter. As the Daily Express notes, this winter has been the wettest on record.

There's some bright news for long-suffering flood victims on the Somerset Levels, with the Guardian quoting the Environment Agency as saying that dredging of major rivers there will begin within weeks.

Meanwhile, 17 bodies - including the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Institution of Environmental Scientists - have written an open letter published in the Daily Telegraph, demanding David Cameron leads a rethink of the planning system to avoid a repeat of the floods.

They say too little is being done to protect homes and that water companies, drainage authorities, councils and environment bodies must join forces to create a "clear strategy" for water management.

A 'feminine' sport?

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There is much celebration of Britain's women winning bronze medals in Sochi, not least because of the potential for punning about "curl power" in headlines.

"Ice maidens brush off rivals," says the Daily Express, which declares in its editorial: "We all love curling now... Well done girls, you certainly swept readers off their feet."

The Daily Star is even more enthusiastic, declaring the team "bronze beauties" and quoting internet fans enthusing over vice-captain Anna Sloan's "amazing eyes".

A far cry, then, from sports and equalities minister Helen Grant's comments, reported by the Daily Mail, that girls should not have to feel "unfeminine" when playing sports.

The MP's suggestion that "feminine" activities such as "cheerleading, ballet and roller-skating" could be more suitable provoked ridicule, the paper reckons.

Meanwhile, the Sun claims that one highly successful woman in sport - the Belarusian Darya Domracheva, who won three biathlon gold medals - "honed her skills as a 007-style agent with the FSB, Russia's secret service".

Back at home, two Sun reporters create a DIY "Skinter Olympics", using a skateboard for the skeleton, drain pipes for skis (on grass) and ice cubes for hockey pucks. "Both were Sochi good sports," it says.

Finally, the Daily Express reports that "rogue fans" of skeleton bob champion Lizzy Yarnold painted a postbox gold in her Kent village after the Royal Mail snubbed the idea. It had re-coloured postboxes near the homes of each of Team GB's London 2012 gold medallists.

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