Ukrainians stage mass rally over EU snub
Ukraine saw its biggest demonstrations since the 2004 Orange Revolution yesterday as more than 100,000 people marched in protest at the government's refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union.
Defying a ban on protests in the centre of Kiev, large crowds assembled in Independence Square calling for a "revolution" against President Viktor Yanukovych. Others clashed with riot police and stormed the city mayor's office, saying it would serve as an operational protest headquarters until Mr Yanukovych stepped down.
"We want Europe and freedom," said one protester, Mykola Sapronov (62) . "The leaders must resign."
The demonstration, which created a vast sea of yellow and blue Ukrainian and EU flags across the square, followed Mr Yanukovych's unexpected decision not to sign a trade accord with Europe at a summit last week. He claimed he was put under pressure by Russia, which wants Ukraine to sign a customs union with Moscow instead.
The crowds, who threatened to stage a permanent sit-in, were galvanised by police
action against several hundred protesters at a smaller demonstration on Saturday.
Around 30 people were arrested and dozens hurt after riot police used stun grenades and batons against them.
"They beat people, they spill blood," said Nina Moskalik (25). "This is why we have to come out."
Anxious to defuse the situation, Mr Yanukovych condemned the use of force by the police. The protest could pose a serious challenge to his authority if it sustains momentum. (© Daily Telegraph, London)