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Ukrainian Antigovernment Protests Continue After EU Rejection

  • RFE/RL

A woman with a national flag around her shoulders attends an opposition rally in front of the Cabinet of Ministers building in downtown Kyiv on November 27.

A woman with a national flag around her shoulders attends an opposition rally in front of the Cabinet of Ministers building in downtown Kyiv on November 27.

Demonstrators have kept up the pressure on the Ukrainian leadership to sign a key deal this week with the European Union, despite the government's assurances that negotiations with Brussels would continue in the future.

In Kyiv, thousands of protesters, including many students, rallied on November 27 for a seventh consecutive day, banging on drums, chanting pro-European slogans, and calling on President Viktor Yanukovych to reverse course and sign an Association Agreement with the EU.

Large demonstrations were held in the western city of Lviv and in the nearby city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on November 27 at a cabinet meeting that Ukraine was still negotiating with the EU despite Kyiv's decision last week to not sign the political and economic agreements at a summit in Vilnius on November 29.



But the head of the opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms party (UDAR), heavyweight world champion boxer Vitali Klitschko, told protesters such proclamations from the government didn't go far enough.

"Here on every door, you can see the sign 'European renovation' or 'renovation' and we want to renovate the whole country, especially inside this building of the Cabinet of Ministers," Klitschko said.

"We want to do a European renovation [of the Ukrainian government]."

'Free Yulia!'

Demonstrators in Kyiv also rallied outside Ukraine's main government building to demand the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose 53rd birthday is November 27.

Tymoshenko, who is in prison in Kharkiv, is on a hunger strike in support of the protesters.

Vera Kurpita, a Tymoshenko supporter, expressed her feelings outside the prison hospital where Tymoshenko is being treated.

"This is a birthday gift from our hearts -- we wrote a postcard and we prepared a poster. We also prepared many flowers, but the most important is that we brought our sincere wishes from our heart, the wishes from all the people fighting and hoping that Yulia will be free, free, free," she said.

The release of Tymoshenko to receive treatment in Germany for a back ailment was a key EU condition for Kyiv to sign an Association Agreement. The EU considers Tymoshenko's conviction for abuse of office to be politically motivated and has urged Kyiv to implement reforms to ban selective justice.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the EU will continue to urge Kyiv to sign the Association Agreement at the Vilnius summit.

Merkel also criticized Russian pressure on Kyiv not to move closer to the EU, saying: "We must overcome the last relics of the Cold War. Nations must decide freely, and they will decide."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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