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Defying Ban on Protests, Hundreds of Thousands Spill Into Ukraine's Streets, Call for 'Revolution'
Clashes erupted in Ukraine's capital of Kiev on Sunday when over 100,000 people defied a government ban on protests and filled Independence Square, furious over the president's refusal to sign an agreement that would lead to EU integration.
Protests were held in other cities throughout Ukraine as well, bringing roughly 300,000 to the streets.
For over a week, daily protests have been held calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych.
"We are furious," 62-year-old retired businessman Mykola Sapronov told the Associated Press. "The leaders must resign. We want Europe and freedom."
CNN described the scene on Sunday as "reminiscent of Ukraine's so-called 'Orange Revolution' of 2004, where millions joined in peaceful protest against alleged corruption and in defense of democracy." From the New York Times:
“I want the authorities to know that this is not a protest; this is a revolution!” said Yuri V. Lutsenko, a former interior minister and a leader of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004, speaking to the huge crowd that thronged Independence Square in defiance of a court order. “Revolution!” the crowd roared back. “Revolution!”
The Guardian reports that
The angry mood was galvanised by the violent break-up of a sit-in protest on Independence Square early on Saturday morning, when several hundred riot police dispersed the 1,000-strong crowd of mainly students. They were the final few who had not gone home after earlier protests, and the riot police moved in, causing a number of casualties. The city authorities rather implausibly claimed they needed the square empty in order to erect a giant Christmas tree.
Early on Sunday, in an attempt to dampen the unrest further, a Kiev court banned all rallies at Independence Square, but the move had the opposite effect, with people flocking to the square in their thousands. The incomplete Christmas tree was hung with Ukrainian flags, and the vast square gradually filled up with people until they spilled out on to neighbouring streets.