Ukraine opposition prepares for fightback

Protesters regrouping, aiming to topple President Viktor Yanukovich after violent dispersal of pro-EU demonstrations.

Last updated: 01 Dec 2013 11:26
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Ukraine's opposition parties have united in calling a general strike, which gripped the country on Sunday morning.

The move comes after 30 protesters were injured as a mass demonstration calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovich was dispersed violently by riot police in the early hours of Saturday.

They had been condemning the president's decision to stymie a historic trade deal with the European Union.

Protesters have been regrouping overnight, rehearsing defensive tactics and finding safe routes to potential shelter, should a police confrontation happen again.

Some in the crowd have been seen carrying crowbars and baseball bats.

Ukraine opposition set to call general strike

Up to 100,000 people are expected to march through the centre of Kiev on Sunday afternoon.

However, the scenes of violence which made headlines this weekend are unlikely to be repeated, after Yanukovich promised to restore ties with the EU.

"I will do everything in my power to accelerate the process of moving Ukraine closer to the European Union," Interfax news agency quoted Yanukovich as saying.

The former Soviet state has been at the centre of a tug-of-war between the EU and Russia in recent months, and such statements from the president's office may be aimed at calming tensions on the streets, Al Jazeera's David Chater, reporting from Kiev, said.

"Ukraine has made its own geopolitical choice. We are a European people and our path has been historically determined. But at the same time, according to my deep conviction, our government should integration into an association of European nations as an equal partner to be respected."

"It might be taken with a pinch of salt by many here, coming as it does just 48 hours after President Yanukovich refused to sign a pact with European leaders," our correspondent said.

Sunday's protest is set to be the largest seen
in a week of demonstrations in Kiev [Reuters]

"He's trying to appease the protesters. I expect that we will not see riot police action against protesters today."

Yanukovich had backed out of the EU deal after Moscow levelled harsh trade sanctions against Ukraine, and promised further punitive action - should closer European ties be agreed.

The office of the president also confirmed on Sunday that Yanukovich would shortly be visiting Russia to discuss a new trade deal with Kremlin officials.

Protesters have vowed to continue to defy court orders banning them from re-entering Kiev's Liberty Square, where thousands of pro-EU demonstrators had gathered in the past week.

"I am Ukrainian and that is why I am here today together with my fellow patriots," Vitaly, a protester from Odessa, said.

"I will be here until that evil which is sitting in the presidential chair goes to prison where he belongs."

But the country's interior minister warned protesters against trying to replicate the Arab Spring north of the Black Sea.

"Mass disorder? The police cannot fail to react to this. Do we want to go the way of Libya, Tunis? If there are calls [from the opposition] for mass disorder, then we will react," Vitaly Zakharchenko told Interfax.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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