Thousands of Ukrainians stage rival rallies in Ukrainian capital
Iran Press TV
Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:46PM GMT
Thousands of protesters have staged mass rallies against President Viktor Yanukovych in the center of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, just a few hundred meters away from pro-government demonstrators, amid simmering fears of skirmishes.
On Sunday, at least 200,000 anti-government and pro-European Union (EU) protesters gathered in the capital's Independence Square, while Yanukovych supporters converged on the nearby Mariinskyi Park.
Government supporters have vowed a "non-stop protest" with lawmaker from the ruling Party of Regions, Mykhailo Chechetov, saying, "It will continue until the situation in the country stabilizes."
Pro-EU protesters have remained camped out on Independence Square for more than three weeks since Yanukovych refused to sign a trade deal with the European Union last month.
Meanwhile, the EU announced on Sunday that it was suspending work on a trade agreement with Ukraine after Yanukovych failed to make a clear commitment to signing the deal.
The European Union has repeatedly made clear that the Association Agreement itself remains on the table, but that its terms cannot be renegotiated.
The Ukrainian president is facing intense pressure to decide whether to sign up with the EU or to join a Russian-led Customs Union, which also includes former Soviet states of Belarus and Kazakhstan.
European Union leaders have blamed Russia for Ukraine's refusal to sign the deal, saying they will not allow Moscow to "veto" deals in Eastern Europe.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused Western countries of losing "their sense of reality" over Ukraine's crisis, and also charged them with using blackmail to cut Kiev off from Russia.
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