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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ukraine: Tens of Thousands March Through Kiev, plus live video stream

AP: More than 100,000 demonstrators chased away police to rally in the center of Ukraine's capital on Sunday, defying a government ban on protests on Independence Square, in the biggest show of anger over the president's refusal to sign an agreement with the European Union.

Thousands of demonstrators tried to storm the nearby presidential administration building, but were driven back by riot police using tear gas and flash grenades, which produce a loud bang but are not intended to cause injury. The standoff continued, with more demonstrators arriving.

The crowd was by far the largest since the protests began more than a week ago. Many of the demonstrators had traveled to Kiev from western Ukraine, where pro-EU sentiment is particularly strong.

"We are furious," said Mykola Sapronov, a 62-year-old retired businessman. "The leaders must resign. We want Europe and freedom."

Dramatic live video streaming from Kiev vi@tonyhalpin.

Protests have been held daily in Kiev since Yanukovych backed away from an agreement that would have established free trade and deepened political cooperation between Ukraine and the EU. He justified the decision by saying that Ukraine could not afford to break trade ties with Russia.

The EU agreement was to have been signed Friday and since then the protests have gained strength.

Sunday's demonstration also was energized by anger over the violent dispersal of several hundred protesters at Independence Square early Saturday. Some of the protesters were left bleeding from their heads after riot police beat them with truncheons.

The EU agreement had been eagerly anticipated by Ukrainians who want their country of 45 million people to break out of Moscow's orbit. Opinion surveys in recent months showed about 45 percent of Ukrainians supporting closer integration with the EU and a third or less favoring closer ties with Russia.

Moscow tried to block the deal with the EU by banning some Ukrainian imports and threatening more trade sanctions. A 2009 dispute between Kiev and Moscow on gas prices resulted in a three-week cutoff of gas to Ukraine.

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