Tens of thousands protest in Ukraine for closer EU ties

  • 2013-11-25
  • By Rayyan Sabet-Parry, RIGA

Tens of thousand are protesting in Ukraine for closer ties with the European Union.

It follows after Ukraine said it would be postponing a major EU association free trade agreement in Vilnius on Nov. 28-29. Instead they would seek closer ties with Russia.

Protestors clashed with police in Kiev outside Prime Ministers office on Monday, Nov. 25. They are the biggest protests the country has seen since the Orange revolution in 2008.

The European Union said it would only grant Ukraine the free trade agreement if they release imprisoned former President Yulia Tymoshenko. She was jailed in 2008 for alleged abuses of office. Critics have called the imprisonment politically motivated. 

Tymoshenko, meanwhile, said she would be going on hunger strike until Ukraine signed the deal.

Ukrainian President Yanukovych is set to attend the major Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on Nov. 28-29, where his country was widely believed to seal the deal, reports Interfax.

However, Yanukovych said his country was postpoining the agreement with the EU to protect the vulnerable. EU officials have accused Russia of bullying Ukraine in to the turn around. 

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the demonstrations sent out a clear message.

"It's quite clear form these demonstrations that a substantial percentage of Ukrainians would like to devleop a relationship with the European Union. They want visa free travel to EU," he told the BBC.

"I think the EU leadership has to think about how to respond. We've been negotiation this agreement for two years. Then suddenly they say we're not going to do this. We do not stop our relations, on the other hand we put a lot of work into this issue."