Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Statue of Lenin torn down in Kiev amid huge pro-EU protest in Ukraine

Massive rally comes in wake of government's refusal to sign agreement with the EU

Ukrainian protesters smash a statue of Vladimir Lenin with a sledgehammer, in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. Anti-government protesters have toppled the statue of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in central Kiev amid huge protests gripping Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian protesters smash a statue of Vladimir Lenin with a sledgehammer, in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. Anti-government protesters have toppled the statue of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in central Kiev amid huge protests gripping Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
KIEV, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 8: Anti-government protesters hold a large rally on Independence Square on December 8, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 8: Anti-government protesters lock arms to block access to a street that leads to the Ukrainian parliament building, the site of a rally held by the ruling Party of Regions in support of the government and Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, on December 8, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by President Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Flowers from pro-European union activists lay in front of police outside the Presidential office in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, with various messages supporting their cause. Thousands of Ukrainians angered by police violence and the president's turn away from Europe are expected to converge on the capital Sunday. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
KIEV, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 8: Men dressed as Cossacks ride horses through the streets on December 8, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
A teenager waves a national flag over a crowd of Pro-European Union activists gathered during a rally in the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. Over 200,000 angry Ukrainians occupied a central Kiev square on Sunday, to denounce President Viktor Yanukovychs decision to turn away from Europe and align this ex-Soviet republic with Russia, as massive protests continued for a third week. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
KIEV, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 8: Anti-government protesters camp on Independence Square early in the morning on December 8, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 8: Anti-government protesters eat breakfast inside the occupied International Centre of Culture and Arts on December 8, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 7: Anti-government protesters sleep on the floor of the occupied Kiev City Hall on December 7, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered on the streets of Kiev to call for the resignation of the government after it refused to tighten its ties with the European Union.

The so-called “political crisis” continued after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he shelved the EU deal, following alleged Russian opposition.

While some in the crowd waved EU and Ukranian flags in Independence Square, others tore down a statue of Vladimir Lenin, the former leader of the Soviet Union, using metal bars and ropes. They then smashed the statue with hammers as protesters chanted “glory to Ukraine”.

The move came after Russian President Vladimir Putin encouraged Ukraine to instead join a Russian-led customs union.

Both Russian and Ukrainian leaders deny discussing the issue of Kiev joining the customs union along with Belarus and Kazakhstan during their meeting in the Russian city of Sochi on Saturday.

Leaders of the protesters gave Mr Yanukovych a 48 hour ultimatum to dismiss the government and are in the process of setting up barricades outside government offices.

The ongoing protests are the largest seen in the country since the pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004.

The European Commission said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would travel to the state to “support a way out of the political crisis”.

Aside from the protests, the Ukrainian Security Service confirmed an on-going investigation into “actions aimed at seizing state power” but did not name the politicians allegedly involved.

Meanwhile, the Berkut, Ukraine’s special police force, have been criticised for beating protesters on Independence Square, or Maidan.

Undeterred, the opposition party of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has urged people to “chase” the president “until he falls”.

“We are on a razor's edge between a final plunge into cruel dictatorship and a return home to the European community,” Mrs Tymoshenko said in a message to the crowd read out by her daughter.

“Don't give in, not a step back, don't give up, the future of Ukraine is in your hands,” he said.

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