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Protests

Demonstrations continue in Ukraine with parliament set to debate no-confidence motion

Thousands of protesters are on the streets of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv ahead of a parliamentary no-confidence vote. But the opposition, which called the vote, doesn’t control enough seats to bring down the government.

Riot police have cordoned off the area around the parliament building on Tuesday, preventing demonstrators from approaching it as debate on the no-confidence motion was to begin later in the day.

The opposition called the no-confidence vote over President Viktor Yanukovych's decision last week not to sign an association agreement with the European Union, something he had previously been expected to do.

The resolution to be put before parliamentarians accuses the government of having betrayed the people by balking at the signing the pact, under pressure from Russia.

The prospects of the opposition actually winning the vote, though, appeared to be unclear at best. Opposition leaders, including former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko don't actually control enough seats to vote the Prime Minister Mykola Azarov out of office, but they are hoping to convince some members of his government to support the motion.

Azarov hit back at the protests on Monday, saying the situation in Ukraine bore all the hallmarks of a coup d'etat.

Braving the cold

Several hundred demonstrators braved sub-zero temperatures on Monday night, huddling in army tents set up on Kyiv's Independence Square. Thousands more came out to join them on Tuesday morning, with others some blockading the entrances to government ministries.

Former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, now a member of the opposition, addressed the crowd at the square on Tuesday morning, calling on them not to let up in their demonstrations against the government.

Opposition protests gained momentum last Friday after President Yanukovych announced that he would not sign the association agreement with the EU.

On Sunday more than 100,000 people turned out to Independence Square in what was the biggest demonstration the country has seen since the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution. There were also clashes with police over the weekend, which left more than 150 people injured.

It was not clear when a vote on the no-confidence motion before parliament would be held. Some reports indicate it may not happen for a matter of days.

pfd/hc (AFP, dpa)