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Ukrainians continue to protest EU snub

Protesters plan new rally undeterred by freezing temperatures and president's decision to forge closer ties with Moscow.

Last updated: 22 Dec 2013 06:14
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Yanukovich has rejected calls to resign and has said he will not call an early election [Reuters]

Ukrainians have planned another demonstration in the capital to condemn President Yanukovich's decision to eschew integration with the European Union in favour of financial aid from Russia.

Protesters have occupied Kiev's Independence Square for a month, unhappy with the president's pivot to Moscow, and have planned another rally on Sunday calling for his resignation.

But their persistence and presence appears to have had little effect on the president, who last Tuesday met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and persuaded him to buy $15bn of Ukrainian bonds and slash Russian gas prices by one-third.

Yanukovich has resisted calls for greater EU integration and rejected demands to leave office. He has also said he will not call a snap election.

But the ongoing political crisis could undermine his long-term staying power.

Last week Yanukovich said he would only seek re-election in a March 2015 presidential vote if he had enough pre-campaign support.

Putin's 'brotherly' act

Putin played down fears that the bailout was a way to keep Europe at a distance, describing the financial package as a “brotherly” act to stave off an economic crisis.

"Now we see that Ukraine is in difficult straits ... if we really say that they are a brotherly nation and people then we must act like close relatives and help this nation," Putin told his annual news conference after his meeting with Yanukovich.

"In no way this is related with the Maidan [protests in central Kiev] or the European talks with Ukraine."

Though crowds have thinned in Independence Square, hundreds remain camped out in the capital, sleeping in tents and keeping warm beside fires.

The protests have drawn crowds of up to 300,000 in spite of police brutality, freezing temperatures and counter-rallies from pro-Yanukovich supporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of several international leaders who has asked for peaceful protests in Kiev. 

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Source:
AP
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