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Common Dreams

Kiev Rally Draws Hundreds of Thousands in Ukraine

Independent Square remains occupied by anti-government encampment as crowds swell

by
Common Dreams staff

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian protesters demanding the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich took to the central square of Kiev on Sunday in the largest demonstration yet against the ruling government.

The demonstrators, who have occupied Independent Square and many government buildings in the capital city for over a week expected as many as one million people to attend the rally.

Footage showed huge crowds gathering throughout the day despite the cold weather and growing political tension in a country that is now torn between its historic alliance with Russia and the push for closer ties with Europe.

As Reuters reports:

Sunday's rally marks a further escalation in a weeks-long confrontation between authorities and protesters that has raised fears for political and economic stability in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.

"This is a decisive moment when all Ukrainians have gathered here because they do not want to live in a country where corruption rules and where there is no justice," said world heavyweight boxing champion-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko.

The opposition accuses Yanukovich, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, of preparing to take Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union, which they see as an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union.

"We are on a razor's edge between a final plunge into cruel dictatorship and a return home to the European community," jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said in an emotional message to the crowd read out by her daughter Yevgenia.

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"There is a significantly greater chance of ending up in a medieval dictatorship; the choice is in your hands," said Tymoshenko, Yanukovich's main rival, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of office in a case condemned by the West as politically motivated.

This Sky News report gives a sense of recent developments on the ground:

And this footage from Sunday afternoon, shows the heart of the opposition movement as the crowds gathered in Independence Square:

Twitter was flooded with updates, photos, and proclamations:

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