Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov says negotiations on signing an Association Agreement with the EU are continuing despite the government's decision not to sign a deal later this week at the EU summit in Vilnius.
Azarov told his cabinet that Ukraine intended to forge closer relations with the European Union as soon as it resolved its remaining trade differences with Russia. No date was given.
Azarov also urged the police to be tougher on demonstrators.
"Unfortunately some opposition politicians are trying to turn a peaceful expression of the people's will into a violent showdown," Azarov said. "Law enforcement agencies have to curb such an attempt without any hesitation. This is in the interest of the majority of our people."
Azarov's comments come as hundreds of protesters rallied outside the government seat in Kyiv for the fourth day running to demand President Viktor Yanukovych reverse course and sign the accord.
The head of the opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms party (UDAR), Vitali Klitschko, told the crowd: "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. We want to do a European renovation."
Protester Alina Lysenko, a pensioner, told Reuters that Azarov’s government had made life impossible for ordinary citizens: "[I came here] because bad people [at the cabinet meeting] are sitting there now. They took everything from us. Our pension is 1,000 hryvnyas [$120]. That's not enough for us so we came to support [the protesters]."
Another protester, Vitaliy Sergenko, said that people needed to put pressure on the government to sign the deal with the EU: "People are putting peaceful pressure on this criminal and treacherous government in Ukraine which lied to us for the past year about moving towards Europe. People hoped for this, they trusted them, but finally they refused to sign the Association Agreement which means they don't care at all about the people in Ukraine."
Pro-EU protesters in Kyiv earlier this morning dismantled their tents in two smaller squares in the capital to consolidate in the main Independence Square.
Protests are also taking place elsewhere in the country. Over 20,000 people protested in the western city of Lviv on November 26.
Meanwhile, imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko continues a hunger strike in support of the pro-EU protests.
Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevhenia, said her mother had been consuming nothing but water for the past two days.
Kyiv blames EU officials for the talks' failure by accusing them of insufficiently compensating Ukraine for the damages it would suffer from puncturing its tight economic ties to Russia.
On November 26, Yanukovych said the financial terms offered by the EU were humiliating for Ukraine.
Yanukovych said the EU offered aid worth $829 million but that Ukraine's economy would need $20 billion annually to reach EU standards.
Brussels had earlier accused Moscow of pressuring Ukraine out of the deal.
Russia rejects the claim.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was advising "our friends in Brussels, my personal good friends in the European Commission, to hold back on the sharp words."
With reporting by Reuters and AFP