Tens of thousands of ukrainians demonstrate for eu course

Tens of thousands of ukrainians demonstrate for eu course

At the largest mass rally of government opponents since the pro-western orange revolution nine years ago, the opposition called on president viktor janukovich to sign a partnership agreement with the eu at the end of this week after all. Jailed ex-government leader julia timoshenko called on her supporters in a letter to continue pressuring her pro-russian rival with protests.

Opponents of the government set up tents in the ukrainian capital for a permanent protest. Opponents of the government and world boxing champion vitali klitschko also took part in the protests with his party (udar). "We will put pressure on the president, the government, and we will do everything we can to get the association agreement with the eu signed," klitschko said.

In one incident, police used tear gas against aggressive demonstrators, the militia’s press service said. According to the report, opponents of the government had set off a smoke bomb and tried to storm the government cabinet building. Observers described situation in kiev as largely peaceful.

According to the opposition, more than 100,000 people in kiev alone were on the streets in support of their country’s EU course. The police spoke of only 20,000 participants. That’s how many people a counter-rally by pro-russian forces brought together, officials said.

The EU had planned to sign the historic association agreement on closer cooperation and free trade with the ex-soviet republic this friday at the eastern partnership summit in the lithuanian capital of vilnius. However, the ukrainian government surprisingly decided to take a break in order to negotiate with russia.

Russia accuses the EU of geopolitical power games and had threatened ukraine with punitive measures if it signed the agreement. German chancellor angela merkel then offered to talk to kremlin leader vladimir putin about ukraine. She also stressed that the agreement was not directed against russia.

Opposition leader timoshenko, who is ill and in prison, recently called for the agreement to be signed regardless of whether she is released to germany for treatment, as demanded by merkel and the eu. "The agreement is our roadmap for a normal life. This is our quantum leap out of a profoundly savage dictatorship into a civilized life," she wrote on sunday.

A few days before the summit in vilnius, the eu enlargement commissioner stefan fule wrote in a twitter entry on sunday that the european tures for the country were open for hours. The goal is to modernize ukraine. However, the leadership in kiev had declared that one partnership must not be at the expense of another – in this case with russia.

Thousands also demonstrated for an EU course in many other cities of the country, among them in lviv (lemberg) and in odessa. "Ukraine belongs to europe", chanted people with european flags in their hands. The anti-government pop diva ruslana (40) had mobilized her fans on her website beforehand. "If putin wins ukraine for himself, we’ve lost everything," said the winner of the 2004 eurovision song contest ("wild dances").