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Protests mark Ukraine's 20 years of independence

Protests mark Ukraine's 20 years of independence
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Ukraine has been celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union.

President Viktor Yanukovich used the occasion to put the emphasis on continuing economic reforms and efforts to move closer to mainstream Europe.

Before the celebrations he said he believes 2011 will see Ukraine complete negotiations on political association with the EU, and the creation of a comprehensive free trade zone.

But Yanukovich made no mention of a controversial court case that is polarising public opinion in Ukraine. His main adversary, the former prime minister Julia Tymoshenko, is on trial for abuse of power when she was in office. Thousands of her supporters turned out in Kiev to express anger and criticism that has been echoed in the US and the EU.

The court hearing the case refused her application for two days parole so she could spend the independence holiday with her mother.

Critics argue that she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovich, who narrowly beat her in the presidential election last year. A large crowd of her supporters left a park in central Kiev heading towards the presidential HQ shouting anti-Yanukovich slogans. They were kept back by lines of riot police. No one was arrested.