Kiev: 100,000 Rally, Demand to Join EU
More than 100,000 people in the Ukrainian capital Kiev protested Sunday against the government's move to delay an association deal with the EU, under pressure from Russia.
The protest is said to be the largest since the 2004 Orange Revolution, reported the BBC. Police fired tear gas as protesters tried to break through a cordon blocking them from nearing government buildings. A pro-government rally a few miles away attracted about 10,000 people.
Kiev police said they had fired tear gas after protesters threw a smoke grenade at officers in an attempt to break into the Cabinet of Ministers building.
Ukraine made the decision on the EU deal last week, saying it could not afford to break ties with Moscow. Russia wants Kiev to join its own customs union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU of blackmailing Ukraine to sign a deal with it, during a summit in Lithuania last week.
People arrived at the rally, held on European Square, with their families, many holding banners with slogans like "I want to live in Europe" or "Ukraine is part of Europe".
"We want to be together with Europe," Volodymyr Mnikh, a 62-year-old retired chemist, told the Associated Press news agency. "We want our children to have a future and not to be pressured by Russia."
Opposition leaders also joined the protests.
Several rallies in Kiev and other cities have been held over the last few days, but Sunday's has been the largest so far.
On Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the decision not to sign the deal was based solely on economics and was "tactical".
The Ukrainian government says it is now looking into setting up a joint commission to promote ties between Ukraine, Russia and the EU.