Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched on the central square of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, nearing the end of more than a month of rallies against the government’s decision to shelve a key trade deal with the EU.
The deal would have boosted economic ties between Ukraine and Europe, potentially loosening Russia’s grip on the country.
The turnout at Sunday’s protest was noticeably lower than at some of the earlier demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands of participants.
As it has before, Sunday’s rally opened with speeches by the country’s religious leaders, including Christian priests, a rabbi and a mufti who called for national unity and stressed the protesters’ right to have the government they want.
Most of the protesters have come from western and central regions of the country, while many people in the mostly Russian-speaking east and the south support closer ties with Moscow.
After a violent police crackdown on November 30, President Viktor Yanukovych’s government has limited the use of force in an apparent hope that protests would fizzle out.
Protest at Yanukovych's private residence
Some 5,000 protesters also made their way to Yanukovych's residence known as Mezhygirya on the banks of the Dnipro river some 15 kilometres (10 miles) outside of Kiev by bicycle, car and minibuses adorned with Ukrainian flags, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.
They were kept at a distance of around 300 metres (330 yards) from the heavily guarded residence by a vast cordon of anti-riot officers who blocked the path of the protesters with police buses and trucks.
The protesters carried a coffin to symbolise what they hope is the end of Yanukovych's political career and chanted "Kiev rise up!" and "Get Out Yanukovych".
Ukraine's opposition and media have long accused Yanukovych of financing Mezhygirya with funds obtained improperly by him and his family, and said its luxury is wholly inappropriate in a country going through an economic crisis.
Investigations into the financing and construction of the residence were a prime part of the work of journalist Tetyana Chornovol, who is in hospital after being brutally beaten last week.
The leader of the opposition UDAR (Punch) party and world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko stood on a minibus to denounce 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," said Klitschko.
"The next time there are going to be a million of us," he said.
The presidency has always vehemently denied that Yanukovych has behaved improperly over the construction and financing of the residence.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, Reuters)
Date created : 2013-12-29