US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the Ukrainian leadership to “listen to the voices of its people” after President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to spurn a pact with the European Union sparked mass protests.
“Mr Yanukovych has obviously made a personal decision and the people don’t agree with that decision,” Kerry said after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
“Clearly there is a very powerful evidence of people who would like to be associated with Europe … we stand with the vast majority of the Ukrainians who want to see this future for their country,” he told a news conference.
“We urge the Ukrainian government to listen to the voices of its people who want to live in freedom and in opportunity and prosperity. We urge all sides to conduct themselves peacefully. Violence has no place in a modern European state.”
The anti-government protesters long to be part of the West. A week ago all they wanted was to change their government’s mind about an EU trade deal. Now, after a heavy police clampdown on their protests, they demand a change of government.
One protester told euronews: “We hope to get something good, and all of this will end with a quick victory, but it seems that it’s not going to be so easy. But we are ready to stay and we will stay as long as it’s needed to achieve the victory,” he said.
Another one said: “I don’t expect that the president will accept this proposal, because he is a coward. If he was a normal president of Ukraine he would be brave enough to go out and to apologise to those children who were beaten up by special forces.”
Ukrainian police used batons and stun grenades at the weekend to break up pro-Europe protests. That led to the resignation of the chief of police in Kiev, Valeriy Koryak.
On Tuesday night, in front of the presidential palace, protesters and police were keeping a safe distance apart.
Euronews correspondent Maria Korenyuk sent this report:
“Among the thousands of protesters who came to the presidential building, just a few really believe that President Victor Yanukovych will accept their demands and force the government to resign. Meanwhile the prime minister has already said that he is ready to make some changes in the government. But he didn’t say what changes,” she said.