Thousands of Ukrainians have staged a rally for the first time in front of the private home of President Viktor Yanukovych, as more than a month of protests continue against the government’s decision to cancel a deal for greater European Union integration.
About 5,000 protesters rallied outside the president’s residence, known as Mezhygirya, on Sunday, carrying a coffin to symbolise what they hope is the end of Yanukovych’s political career, and chanting “Kiev rise up!” and “Get Out Yanukovych!”.
The authorities should not think that they can hide behind fences and not hear the people.
The residence, located 15km outside of Kiev, was heavily guarded by Ukrainian riot police. There were no initial reports of clashes.
Ukraine’s opposition and media have long accused Yanukovych of financing Mezhygirya with funds obtained improperly by him and his family, a claim the government denies.
Vitali Klitschko, the leader of the opposition UDAR (Punch) party and world boxing champion, denounced the “corruption” of the elite in front of the crowds.
“The authorities should not think that they can hide behind fences and not hear the people. They see how many of us there are and we do not have fear,” Klitschko said.
“The next time there are going to be a million of us,” he said.
In Kiev, at least 20,000 protesters gathered in the city’s Independence Square amid growing anger over the brutal beating of a reporter, Tetyana Chornovol, who exposed the lavish lifestyles of Yanukovych and others.
The turnout was lower than at previous anti-government rallies, which drew in hundreds of thousands earlier this month.
Yanukovych has faced more than a month of mass demonstrations across the country since he decided to ditch an EU deal – that would bring Ukraine closer to Europe – in favour of forging closer ties to Russia.
“The question now is what’s next? The demonstrations seem to have run their course, and opposition leaders are relying on a new civil society movement to take the momentum started here, and turn it into real change in Ukraine’s cities and regions,” Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse reported from Independence Square in Kiev.
“They’d like to force early presidential elections, which aren’t scheduled until 2015. They say they have a lot of support and they’ll continue pressuring the government in any way they can,” our correspondent said.
Other protests also targeted the homes of government officials earlier this week.
On Saturday, about 50 cars drove to the house of the country’s Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka in what was dubbed a “protest drive”, while another rally was held outside the house of Ukraine’s Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko.