Ukraine protesters urged to stand firm
Ukrainian opposition leaders urged supporters at a rally to stay on Kiev's main square through New Year and Christmas, as street protests appeared to be losing momentum.
About 100,000 people gathered at Kiev's Independence Square yesterday to demonstrate for the fifth weekend in a row over President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to shelve a trade deal with the European Union and pursue closer ties with Russia.
Although it was a relatively strong showing, the number was the lowest this month, and around half the previous weekend's turnout.
"We will not leave," Vitaly Klitschko, a heavyweight boxing champion who leads the liberal UDAR (Punch) party, told the rally. "We will celebrate the New Year here and we will celebrate Christmas here." In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Christmas falls on January 7.
Seeking to consolidate the protest movement, he and leaders of other opposition parties said they were establishing a political movement called Maidan, a reference to the Ukrainian name of the protest site, Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
Street protests erupted after Mr Yanukovich's decision on November 21 to walk away from an agreement on free trade and political association with the EU, after years of careful preparation, and turn to Ukraine's former Soviet overlord Russia.