Ukraine pro-EU protest loses momentum after Russia deal

December 23, 2013 - 10:05:13 am

A Ukrainian protester waves the national flag from a roof top of a building on Independence Square in Kiev, yesterday.

KIEV: The pro-EU protest movement in Ukraine yesterday appeared to lose its momentum after the government’s bailout deal with Russia, as the latest rally in Kiev drew far fewer demonstrators.

Some 40,000 showed up at Independence Square for the fifth in a series of protests against the U-turn by the government in November, when it decided not to sign the Association Agreement for closer ties with the European Union under Kremlin pressure.

All the previous rallies had attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters, making the turnout at the latest rally the lowest since the Sunday protests began on November 24.

The protest movement has so far been at a loss as to how to respond to a controversial deal clinched by President Viktor Yanukovych in Moscow this week for billions of dollars in Russian help to bail out Ukraine’s ailing economy.

One of the chief opposition leaders, the world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, told those gathered Sunday that the protests would continue.

“We are going to fight and we are not going to go anywhere from here,” he said.

“We demand not only the resignation of the government but snap presidential elections,” he added. 

The protesters have occupied Independence Square — known in Kiev as the Maidan — since late November and erected barricades to prevent security forces from entering the area.

Several police attempts to shift the protest camp ended in failure and provoked outrage inside and outside Ukraine over the use of force against peaceful protesters.

Protest leaders said they now hoped to create a national “Maidan” movement, including in Yanukovych’s stronghold in the east of the country.

“Every person who wants a fair and honest future must be in favour of this movement,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who heads the opposition party of jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko. AFP

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