KYIV -- More rallies are expected across Ukraine on December 1 to protest the government's refusal to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.
Early on the morning of November 30, riot police used batons and stun grenades to remove protesters from Independence Square in Kyiv.
The opposition has called for early elections, with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, head of the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) faction, saying preparations for a nation-wide strike have been made and a "national resistance headquarters" is to be set up.
"The government is to be toppled and this president is to be impeached. It's not an easy job, it's a bumpy road," Yatsenyuk said. "But, we as a united opposition are determined to fight for freedoms and rights of every single citizen in this country. We ask our Western partners not just to talk and make declarations. It's time to take actions."
Yatsenyuk spoke after dozens of people were reported injured when riot police used truncheons to clear Kyiv's Independence Square of several hundred protesters in the early hours of November 30. The Interior Ministry said 35 demonstrators were detained for resisting police, but all were later released.
In a statement late on November 30, President Viktor Yanukovych said he was "deeply outraged" by the incidents that took place during the opposition rally, and called for an "immediate and objective" investigation so that those guilty could be punished. He didn’t specifically blame any side for the violence.
Following the police raid, several thousand protesters gathered outside the nearby St. Michael's Monastery, singing the Ukrainian national anthem and chanting “Glory to Ukraine.”
Jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko called on supporters to continue protesting until President Viktor Yanukovych steps down. Tymoshenko made the call in a statement read by her daughter, Yevhenia:
"I am addressing all Ukrainians to rise against the violence and dictatorship of Yanukovych. I call upon you as a nation to go to the Shevchenko Park on December 1 at 12:00 -- as a response to failing to sign the Association Agreement and the assault on our children. Millions must rise on Maidan, hundreds of thousands will not do. Do not leave the city squares until the regime is overthrown through peaceful means."
The United States condemned the police crackdown and called on Ukraine's leaders to respect their people's right to free expression and assembly. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "These are fundamental to a healthy democracy and the respect for universal values on which the United States' partnership with Ukraine depends."
In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele called upon the Ukrainian authorities to “hold responsible those who acted against the basic principles of freedom of assembly and of expression."
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, called the use of force against peaceful protesters “reprehensible."
Tensions have been building in Ukraine after the president refused, under pressure from Russia, to sign a long-anticipated Association Agreement with the European Union. The deal was supposed to be signed at an EU summit in Vilnius that ended November 29.
Some 10,000 protesters demanded Yanukovych's resignation on November 29.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, Pravda.com.ua, and Interfax