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Yanukovych Backers 'Defend' Ukraine Parliament From Critics

Tensions are high since President Viktor Yanukovych's allies approved an extension to the Russian Black Sea fleet's stay at Sevastopol.
Hundreds of supporters of recently inaugurated Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have formed a cordon around the country's parliament to ward off more than 2,000 anti-Yanukovych protesters.

The presidential critics, urged to protest by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, held banners with slogans like "Yanukovych! Halt! Do not sell Ukraine out!" and waved Ukrainian flags as they rallied in front of the legislature in Kyiv.

There were hundreds of police officers on hand to keep the two camps apart.

Tensions have been especially high since Yanukovych allies in the legislature pushed through a deal -- in a hail of smoke bombs and fisticuffs -- to extend by 25 years Russia's lease to keep its Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol.

Ukraine will receive cut-rate natural gas from Russia in exchange for agreeing to the Russian navy presence.

An opinion poll by the KIPU sociology center cited by Reuters found that 56.5 percent of Ukrainians backed the fleet's stay until 2047.

compiled from agency reports