Lower turnout, but 20,000 still protest in Kiev

The scene in Kiev earlier this month.

About 20,000 people protested in Ukraine’s capital yesterday, maintaining more than a month of rallies opposing the government’s decision to shelve a key deal with the EU.

The turnout was much lower than at previous rallies, which had attracted hundreds of thousands of people.

As it has before, yesterday’s rally opened with speeches by the country’s spiritual leaders, including Christian priests, a rabbi, and a mufti who called for a national unity and stressed the protesters’ right to have the government they want.

Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the opposition national party, Svoboda, notorious for his racist rhetoric, emphasised that Ukrainians in the west and east should unite to fight for their rights. “We are all Ukrainians and want our fair demands to be met.”

The demonstrations were sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision last month to spike the EU deal in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Many of the demonstrators yesterday wore ribbons in the colours of the Ukrainian national flag and remained confident their campaign will win.

Halina Kalymivska, 58, said the turnout was lower because of the holiday season but that the underlying problems that sparked the protests have not gone away.

“It can’t go on like this any longer. We want a normal life so that we can at least afford basic food,” she said.

“I don’t think that people are disillusioned. Nothing has changed. People will keep on protesting, even after the holidays.”


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