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Kiev demonstrators urged to keep up pressure

Ukraine's opposition leaders urged hundreds of thousands of pro-Europe protesters at a rally yesterday to keep up pressure on President Viktor Yanukovich to sack his government and drop plans for closer ties with Russia.

RALLY: Protesters gather in Independence Square to voice anger over President Viktor Yanukovic's decision to abandon an EU trade deal. Picture: SERGEY DOLZHENKO
RALLY: Protesters gather in Independence Square to voice anger over President Viktor Yanukovic's decision to abandon an EU trade deal. Picture: SERGEY DOLZHENKO

The protesters, gathered on Kiev's Independence Square, are furious with the government for its decision to ditch a landmark pact with the EU in favour of a trade deal with Moscow.

Sunday's rally marks a further escalation in a weeks-long confrontation between authorities and protesters that has raised fears for political and economic stability in the country.

"This is a decisive moment when all Ukrainians have gathered here because they do not want to live in a country where corruption rules and where there is no justice," said world heavyweight boxing champion-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko.

The opposition accuses Mr Yanukovich, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, of preparing to take Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union, which they see as an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union.

"We are on a razor's edge between a final plunge into cruel dictatorship and a return home to the European community," jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said in an emotional message to the crowd read out by her daughter Yevgenia.

"There is a significantly greater chance of ending up in a medieval dictatorship; the choice is in your hands," said Tymoshenko, Yanukovich's main rival, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of office in a case condemned by the West as politically motivated.

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