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Ukraine's Tymoshenko Launches Hunger Strike

Tymoshenko is seeking medical treatment abroad.
Tymoshenko is seeking medical treatment abroad.
Jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has launched a hunger strike in solidarity with Ukrainian protesters rallying in Kyiv for closer ties with the European Union.

In a message to protesters, announced by her lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko, Tymoshenko said, "As a sign of unity with you I declare an unlimited hunger strike with the demand to Yanukovych to sign the association agreement."

The EU says Tymoshenko's imprisonment for abuse of office is politically motivated. Allowing Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad had been one of the main conditions for Kyiv to sign the accord with the EU.

Her message came as thousands of pro-EU demonstrators on November 25 urged President Viktor Yanukovych to sign a political and trade agreement with the bloc for a second day, chanting, "Ukraine is Europe!"

Some protesters clashed with police, which used tear gas.

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Protesters want President Viktor Yanukovych to reverse course and sign the agreement with the EU at a summit in Vilnius this week.

Yanukovych meanwhile moved to defuse the protests, saying in a televised address that the decision to suspend moves towards the signing of the agreement had been difficult, and vowing to eventually bring "European standards" to the country.

Yanukovych said the decision had been forced by economic necessity.

Yanukovych's government shocked European leaders last week by announcing it was suspending moves to sign the EU agreement, and saying it would revive dialogue instead with Russia.

Moscow, which wants Ukraine to join its own Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, has objected to the deal with the EU.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso meanwhile issued a joint statement on November 25 criticizing Russia for pressuring Ukraine out of the deal.

The statement said the offer for Ukraine to sign the agreement at a summit in Vilnius this week was "still on the table."

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, and Reuters
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