Termless protests continue in Kiev - PHOTOSESSION

Termless protests continue in Kiev - <span style="color: red;">PHOTOSESSION
# 05 December 2013 01:04 (UTC +04:00)

Kyiv - APA. In Maydan Square of Kiev ("Independence Square") protests of European integration supporters continue. On November 4, former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and party chairman “UDAR” Vitali Klitschko also joined protesters in the square. Tens of thousands of people gathered in the square and their number continues to grow. Along with tents, where they continue to spend the night, still some of them are going to warm up by the fire. People hand out free warm clothes, hot drinks, food to protesters. As protesters dig in to Kiev's Independence Square, bringing in television monitors and erecting a small tent city in the heart of Ukraine's pro-European Union demonstrations, there is much talk of forcing the government to change – indeed, of revolution.

Thousands of people continued to rally in Kyiv for the 14th night in a row, angry at the Ukranian government’s decision to freeze ties with the EU and get closer to Russia. At several places along Khreschatyk, the main street of the city, going improvised concerts, where folk songs, songs of Victor Tsoi "Changes" and others are performed. "There is no way back," says Volodymyr Sherstiuk of the Ukrainian folk-rock group Kozak System, one of several bands playing on the scene. “People are united and will stay here as long as they have to."

But despite the transformation over the weekend – from simple protest against the government's decision not to sign an association agreement with the EU last week, to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians calling for the government and president to step down – experts say that current events in Ukraine are not a replay of Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

At the same time, Mr. Yanukovych's political support among Ukraine's southern and eastern regions, which are more pro-Russia, may be ebbing. Though the country's Russian-speaking regions are unhappy about integration with the EU, those regions are not coming out for Yanukovych the way they did during the Orange Revolution.

The EU has emphasized that its door remains open to Ukraine, and that Yanukovych is welcome to sign the agreement at a planned EU-Ukraine summit in the spring. But “he has to act more quickly, if he wants to be ready on time," warns Mr. Kowal. "In the latter half of the next year it will be too late, because we will have elections for the European Parliament" – pulling the EU's focus away from Ukraine – "and in 2015 Ukrainians will choose a new president,” further delaying a deal. Kramar says the most likely scenario is that Yanukovych will stay in power, but his prime minister, Mykola Azorov, will be forced to resign. “Yanukovych's main goal is to win elections in 2015. He will do everything to achieve this goal, even sacrifice his ministers and impose Russian standards in Ukraine, if that will help him to win an electoral contest.”

Yanukovych has already started his campaign, Mr. Vorobiov says, pointing to the president's decision to travel to China today despite the situation in Kiev. "He wants to show that nothing serious is really happening and everything is under control.” Kramar thinks that in the coming months the protests in Ukraine will lose momentum. “People can't protest on the street forever, the winter is coming and so are the holidays. I'm afraid that the opposition will lose some power and vigor, and Yanukovych will play for time. He won't impose any radical changes and reforms in the country.”

And Yanukovych will likely try to keep his options open with both the EU and Russia, Vorobiov adds. “Yanukovych will go to Brussels soon and probably promise to sign some kind of agreement with the EU to neutralize the opposition," and “later he will visit Moscow and try to negotiate better trade arrangements with Putin.”

And while some protesters have taken to calling the president "bloody Viktor" after the police's violent attacks over the weekend, experts say that it doesn't seem that Yanukovych will decide to use force against protesters again.

The Prime Minister warned the opposition to end its blockade of government buildings and threatened the west of the country, which has gone on general strike, that it could be left without federal funding. At a meeting with the president of the European Council, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov accused protesters of violence against the state. “In Kyiv there are about 2,500 insurgents who use their strength and abilities to provoke law enforcement structures to resist,” Azarov said. Meanwhile, opposition leaders, including champion boxer Vitali Klitschko, met with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Kyiv. Leader of the United Opposition, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said they were planning to widen the protests to the rest of the country.

“We are expanding the protest action both in the city of Kyiv and in other towns across Ukraine, with support from businesses and citizens, so that President Viktor Yanukovych and the entire country can see that this is not just a political process, but that this is a protest by the Ukrainian people against the authorities” he said. The opposition says it is looking for “active international dialogue” and will also meet the foreign ministers of Canada and Poland.

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