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Ukraine: tension in Kyiv as pro and anti government protesters hold rallies

Ukraine: tension in Kyiv as pro and anti government protesters hold rallies
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Thousands of pro-European protesters have continued their rally in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

They are angry that their demand for the EU trade pact to be signed was ignored. Now many are calling for the resignation of the government and President Viktor Yanukovych.

Standing in Independence Square, the scene of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, demonstrators started a human chain to stretch between Kyiv and the Polish border. The idea was to symbolise unity between Ukraine and the neighbouring EU.

One participant said: “we need to show what we want and how we feel about what the government has done.”

Close by, in the city’s European Square, a pro-government rally was held. Around 100 buses brought people in from eastern Ukraine to join the demonstration.

They say they do want European integration but in their own time.

One pro-government demonstrator said: “we are not signing the Association Agreement, but we’re adopting certain standards from Europe.”

The two rallies reflect the linguistic and cultural split between western Ukraine, where support for the EU had been strong, and the predominantly Russian-speaking east, where President Yanukovich comes from.

There were concerns about groups of unidentified young men who wouldn’t explain their role when asked by a euronews journalist and fears that they may be there to cause trouble amongst the crowds.

The ‘sportsmen’ as they are known locally are believed to be thugs who enforce the government’s will on the street. President Yanukovich denies any such tactics are used.

Local media reported that five journalists had been beaten up in the city centre.

Euronews correspondent in Kyiv, Angelina Kariakina, says that even though the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine hasn’t been signed in Vilnius, protesters in Kyiv don’t seem eager to leave the streets. She added they believe the rally should go on and are people in Independence Square are calling for the government’s and president’s resignation.