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Klitschko Says Peaceful Protests Will Continue

Klitschko: Opposition Is In The Fight For 12 Rounds
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WATCH: Vitali Klitschko talks to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.

KYIV -- The leader of Ukraine's opposition UDAR party, Vitali Klitschko, says opposition parties and their supporters will continue their peaceful demonstrations across Ukraine after the winter holidays.

Klitschko, who is a former world heavyweight boxing champion, told RFE/RL on December 31 that the opposition's next step will be a nationwide strike.

"And our next step -- just to remind you that we are peacefully protesting and everything we pursue will be done legally -- is to call for a national strike, an all-Ukrainian strike," Klitschko said.

"The first time it will last just for 5 minutes, then the next time for an hour, then for a day. With this we will demonstrate that we don't want to live or work under this government and by their rules."

Klitschko and other opposition leaders called for continued protests after the winter holidays at a weekly antigovernment rally that attracted tens of thousands of people on December 29 to Independence Square (the "Maidan") in Kyiv, which has been the hub of pro-EU protests for a month.

The protests that became known as "Euromaidan" erupted after President Viktor Yanukovych's government suspended talks on an Association Agreement with the EU last month.

In his interview with RFE/RL, Klitschko said he did not originally expect the number of pro-EU protesters to be as big as it was.

"Nobody expected huge numbers. Honestly, I myself didn't expect it," he said. "We thought maybe 50,000 or 100,000 will show up, but to imagine almost 1 million -- that is a substantial indicator."

Asked how long the pro-EU protests will last, Klitschko compared the demonstrations with a boxing match.

"It's like in boxing, when you wish to knock out your rival with the first punch. But sometimes your rival is very strong and you need to stay fit during the first, second, third, or even for all 12 rounds. Nobody knows," he said. "When you start fighting, you don't know how long the fight will last."

Klitschko also said that Ukraine's current government had to be changed in order not to have political prisoners like former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year term for abuse of office, a charge that she denies and claims is politically motivated.

Klitschko, who previously announced his intention to run for president in 2015, added that the opposition will have a single presidential candidate.
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