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Pro-EU Protestors rally in Kiev (source: twitter)
Thousands of protesters have clashed with police in Kiev following Ukraines refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union.
Pro-EU protestors barricaded key sites in the city as scuffles broke out on Sunday, Dec. 1. Video footage showed police beating protestors with truncheons whilst tear gas was also used. Some police officers were also injured in the clashes.
The Kiev City Hall has been occupied by demonstrators whilst they also tried to bring down a Lenin statue. Journalists have also been harassed as part of the crack down. Online news portal eastbook.eu reported one of their staff was beaten whilst a Reuters photographer suffered a head injury.
The clashes come after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he wouldn't sign an EU free trade deal at the Vilnius Summit in an effort, he said, to protect the vulnerable in the country. Yanukovych said it's hoped a deal could be forged in the future.
EU officials expressed their frustration over the announcement but said the door remains open for Ukraine to join.
Meanwhile, Valery Zhovtenko, Ukraine's Ambassador to Lithuania, was summoned to Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Dec. 2 over concerns about the use of force against peaceful protesters and stressed the necessity to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The ambassador informed that the Government of Ukraine had condemned the brutality of the police against peaceful protesters and emphasized that Ukraine's choice - integration in Europe - remained the strategic objective of country's foreign policy.
Zhovtenko assured that the Ukrainian Government would do everything it could to avoid any civil conflict.
In Estonia, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet condemned the violence. He said: “The use of violence by Ukrainian authorities contradicts the wish to continue with European integration that was expressed at the recently concluded Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius."
Meanwhile, Stefan Fule, EU's commissioner for enlargement said: "Authorities refrained from signing association agreement/DCFTA but they should not refrain from respecting freedom of assembly and expression.
"I'm following events with great concern, urge to refrain from use of force against those peacefully expressing their views."
Ukrainian opposition leaders including former world boxing champion Vitali Kitschko have called for the resignation of Yanukovych. They have called for early elections in the country.
Jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, meanwhile, has gone on huger strike over Ukraine's refusal to sign the pact.
She was jailed in 2008 for alleged abuses of office, a charge, EU officials say was politically motivated.
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