Ukraine’s opposition has failed to force out the government with a no-confidence vote in parliament, leaving the country’s political tensions unresolved.
The opposition called for the vote in protest both at president Viktor Yanukovych’s shelving of a long-anticipated agreement to deepen political and economic ties with the European Union and the violent tactics used by police to disperse demonstrators protesting that decision.
The dispute has brought crowds as big as 300,000 to the streets of Kiev, the largest outpouring of public anger since the 2004 Orange Revolution.
The no-confidence measure got the support of 186 members of parliament, 40 shy of the majority needed. Even if it had passed, Mr Yanukovych would have remained president, but the prime minister and cabinet would have been ejected.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, attending the parliament session with his cabinet, apologised for the violence by riot police against protesters, but otherwise defended the government and denounced protesters who have blocked access to government offices.
Such actions “are not the path to European integration but to dictatorship,” he said, hitting the desk with his fist as opponents jeered.
Mr Azarov, like Mr Yanukovych, has said Ukraine wants further integration with the EU but cannot now bear the burden of the trade losses with Russia it would presumably suffer.
Ukraine is also deeply dependent on natural gas from Russia, which previously has sharply raised prices for its neighbour.
Russia opposes closer Ukraine-EU relations, hoping to draw Ukraine into a trading bloc of several former Soviet republics.
After the no-confidence motion failed, several thousand demonstrators remained outside the parliament building.