Tens of Thousands Rally In Kiev for Closer EU Ties
Kiev – Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through central Kiev on Sunday to demand that the Ukrainian government reverse course and sign a landmark agreement with the European Union in defiance of Russia. The protest was the biggest Ukraine has seen since the peaceful 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned a fraudulent presidential election result and brought a Western-leaning government to power.
The demonstration was led by Ukraine’s top opposition figures, who called for the protests to continue until President Viktor Yanukovych agreed to sign the free trade and political association deal with the EU at a summit on Friday. Carrying giant Ukrainian and EU flags, the demonstrators chanted “Ukraine is Europe” and sang the national anthem as they marched toward European Square. An estimated 50,000 people turned out for the rally.
“We want to be together with Europe,” Volodymyr Mnikh, a 62-year-old retired chemist, said with tears in his eyes. “We want our children to have a future and not to be pressured by Russia.” Ukraine’s leaders announced suddenly last week that they were pulling out of the EU agreement, saying the country could not afford to break trade ties with Russia. The Russian government has worked aggressively to derail the EU deal and bring Ukraine into the Moscow-dominated Customs Union.
“The EU means Ukraine’s development,” said demonstrator Andriy Mazeta, a 19-year-old management student. “The Customs Union means Ukraine’s destruction. We need to push Russia as far away as possible.” (AP)