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Tymoshenko backs pro-EU protests with hunger strike

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-26

Ukraine’s jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said Monday she would go on a hunger strike in support of the thousands of pro-West demonstrators protesting Kiev's decision to drop a planned EU trade pact after pressure from Russia.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday declared she would go on an “unlimited” hunger strike in a show of unity with the thousands of pro-West Ukrainians who have taken to the streets in recent days to protest Kiev’s shock decision to back away from plans to sign a trade pact with the European Union.

Around 1,000 demonstrators on Monday clashed with police outside government headquarters in Kiev on a second day of major protests against the scrapped EU trade deal.

An AFP reporter said riot police used tear gas to disperse people who tried to enter the building.

Protest leaders said the attempted storming was the work of outside troublemakers.
 

"As a sign of unity with you, I declare an unlimited hunger strike with the demand to (President Viktor) Yanukovich to sign the association agreement," Tymoshenko declared.

Thousands of pro-West Ukrainians have protested Kiev’s shock decision in the biggest rallies seen in the eastern European country since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

"If Yanukovych does not sign our agreement with the EU on November 29, wipe him off the face of Ukraine through peaceful and constitutional means, together with his political and corruption metastases," Tymoshenko was quoted by her opposition party Batkivschyna as saying. "Don't stop!" she urged demonstrators who on Monday clashed with police for a second day after surrounding the government headquarters.

By suspending plans to sign the pact in Vilnius on November 29, Yanukovich is widely seen to have bowed to pressure from Russia.

A conclusion of the Association Agreement -- seen as a first step to eventual EU membership -- would have solidified Kiev’s break from Moscow, which had warned of consequences for its own trade with Ukraine if the EU deal was signed.

Ukraine said it had stopped the preparations after lawmakers failed to agree on legislation that would free Tymoshenko, a key condition of the EU, and because it planned to instead revive talks on a deal with Russia.

Fresh clashes near government headquarters

In a public address on Monday , Yanukovych tried to defuse the pro-EU protests saying the decision to back away from the deal was purely based on economic necessity.

“Today I would like to underline this: there is no alternative to the creation of a society of European standards in Ukraine and my policies on this path always have been, and will continue to be, consistent,” he said.

Within minutes of his address, however, fresh clashes broke out involving riot police and protesters just off Kiev’s European Square, close to government headquarters, where demonstrators have set up a small tent encampment.

Special forces used batons and tear gas against a small group of protesters while other demonstrators listened to speakers denouncing government policy and urging greater integration with the European mainstream. The clashes ended after several minutes and the special forces withdrew.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)


 

Date created : 2013-11-26

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