Following the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend a landmark agreement with the European Union (EU) and instead focus on restoring ties with Russia, crowds gathered in Kyiv’s central square to protest.
The protesters chanted “Ukraine is Europe” and waved both Ukrainian and EU flags. Over 1000 people came to the main square to show their support for European integration.
The crowd marched up to the President’s Administration but were blocked by bus-loads of riot police.
One unidentified member of the crowd said:
“We want the same level of life as the EU’s, the same protection of human rights, respect towards people. In fact it’s a historical moment, because about what direction Ukraine takes for the future, for many years ahead – it’s now that is being decided. And it’s very important, because if it’s not Europe, it’s Russia, Unfortunately, we can’t stay somewhere in the middle.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed disappointment with Ukraine’s decision.
Swedish Foreign Minister and veteran EU diplomat Carl Bildt spoke to euronews in Washington:
“Well, it’s evident to me that there was very heavy Russian pressure, that’s what the Ukrainians say, very heavy Russian pressure with a threat of massive economic measures taken against Ukraine. And that is the background. The offer remains on the table, we keep the door open to Ukraine. But Ukraine has to make up its mind and then, of course, it is something that needs to be discussed carefully, with the way that Russia sometimes behaves towards its neighbors,” he said.