Livestream From Ukraine, Where Tens Of Thousands Return To Protest At Kiev's Main Square
Now that Athens' Syntagma square has been put on indefinite hiatus since everyone has finally figured out the game between Greece and Athens (Greece grudgingly promises to reform but doesn't, at the same time Troika grudgingly threatens to cut off funding for Greece unless reforms are implemented but doesn't... even as the fate of the people gets worse), a new square has emerged as the focal point in the fight for (and against) Europe - Kiev's Independence Square.
However, unlike in Syntagma square where the people were largely against Europe due to its demands for Greek reforms, in the Ukraine, the people who amass at the country's biggest square are instead demanding that the country return to Europe's sphere of influence and tear away from Russian gravity where the country recently found itself gravitating toward as reported previously. If in the process the government of president Yanukovich can be overthrown so much the better.
Which is why following two weeks of escalating protests, today is the latest day in which tens if not hundreds of thousands of people are expected to come down to Independence Square, where Ukraine's opposition leaders urged hundreds of thousands of pro-Europe protesters at a rally on Sunday to keep up pressure on President Viktor Yanukovich to sack his government and drop plans for closer ties with Russia.
Independence Square has been transformed into a makeshift village of tents, festooned with Ukrainian blue and yellow flags, EU flags and opposition banners, beneath a large television screen. People huddle around braziers for warmth.
The live webcast from Kiev can be found below:
More from Reuters:
The protesters, gathered on Kiev's Independence Square, are furious with the Yanukovich government for its decision to ditch a landmark pact with the European Union in favour of a trade deal with Moscow, Ukraine's Soviet-era overlord. Sunday's rally marks a further escalation in a weeks-long confrontation between authorities and protesters that has raised fears for political and economic stability in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.
"This is a decisive moment when all Ukrainians have gathered here because they do not want to live in a country where corruption rules and where there is no justice," said world heavyweight boxing champion-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko.
The opposition accuses Yanukovich, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, of preparing to take Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union, which they see as an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union.
"We are on a razor's edge between a final plunge into cruel dictatorship and a return home to the European community," jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said in an emotional message to the crowd read out by her daughter Yevgenia.
"There is a significantly greater chance of ending up in a medieval dictatorship; the choice is in your hands," said Tymoshenko, Yanukovich's main rival, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of office in a case condemned by the West as politically motivated.
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The Moscow and Kiev governments have both denied that Putin and Yanukovich discussed the customs union in their talks on Friday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, but further bilateral talks are planned for Dec. 17.
Yanukovich and Putin, who regards Ukraine as strategically vital to Moscow's own interests, are widely believed to have struck a bargain whereby Ukraine obtains cheaper Russian gas and possibly credits in exchange for backing away from the EU.
What the people demand?
Last weekend, riot police beat protesters and journalists, triggering EU condemnation and swelling the protesters' ranks. "We do not want to be kept quiet by a policeman's truncheon," Klitschko told Sunday's crowd.
He demanded the release of political prisoners, punishment of those responsible for last weekend's police crackdown, the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's government and early presidential and parliamentary elections. Those camped out on Independence Square have been swelled by huge numbers coming in from Ukrainian-speaking areas of western and central Ukraine, where opposition politicians enjoy strong support.
A Tymoshenko ally, former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko, appealed to people in Russian-speaking areas of the east - the bedrock of Yanukovich's power - to turn out and join the protests. "We are the same people as you are, except that they stole from you earlier," he said.
And while the Ukraine government has for now been largely tolerant of protests besides the occasional flare out of police brutality, things are finally changing following news from AFP that the country's security service is launching criminal probes over attempts to "seize power" and that the probe concerns "certain politicians"who the security service says acted illegally. In other words a political crackdown.
#BREAKING Ukraine opens criminal probe over attempts to 'seize power': security service
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) December 8, 2013
In Eastern Europe when such "probes" start flying the result is never good.
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