In his televised New Year address, Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovych said 2013 was perhaps the most difficult year in the country’s history since independence in 1991.
But he also hailed progress, saying that talks, political argument and dialogue as well as the ongoing protests would lead to understanding and national strength.
In Independence Square in Kyiv, more than 100,000 of his opponents gathered to beckon in a new year they hope will bring political change.
Boxing champion turned politician Vitaly Klitschko is leading calls for Ukraine to turn to Europe rather than Russia, the President’s chosen partner.
“We are certain that this year, in 2014, we will be able to change the authorities,” he said. “We will be able to build a team, and as people are now demanding, this team will nominate a single, joint candidate who will win the elections.”
A new opinion poll by the local Democratic Initiative foundation showed that, if a presidential election was held now, Yanukovych would lose in a second round run-off to Klitschko, or indeed to any of several other opposition leaders.
The next scheduled presidential election is in 2015.