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Protests

Ukraine protesters keep up the pressure on President Yanukovych

Hundreds of thousands of people have again demonstrated in Kyiv to demand the resignation of the country’s president. Some also toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin in the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine protests

The toppling of the statue of the Russian revolutionary leader on Sunday came as hundreds of thousands of people gathered around Kyiv's independence square in the biggest protests since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Some of those involved in knocking down the statue of Lenin, located about a 1.6 kilometers (one mile) from the square, subsequently removed its head and took turns beating on its torso.

Bringing down the Lenin statue is seen as a symbolic move, rejecting President Viktor Yanukovych and closer ties to Moscow.

Protesters have now staged three mass anti-government rallies to demonstrate in favor of closer ties to the European Union and against President Yanukovych and his decision to balk at signing an agreement with the 28-member bloc.

Throughout the day, opposition supporters flowed into the square, also known as Maidan, where some have set up a tent city. Some waved EU and Ukrainian flags, as well as the red-and-black banner of the anti-communist wartime Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

Protesters also set up blockades around key government buildings by erecting barricades, setting up tents and parking vehicles in strategic places.

Estimates regarding the total number of protesters vary, with the opposition putting it at 500,000 people. Separate observers put the figure close to 300,000.

Resignation demands

Meanwhile Yevgenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of jailed ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, delivered a message from her jailed mother, calling for Yanukovych's "immediate" resignation.

"Yanukovych took a decision to join the club of dictators," Yevgenia Tymoshenko quoted her mother as saying. "We must peacefully and legally oust him from power."

"He is no longer the president of our state, he is a tyrant who must answer for every drop of blood that has been shed," she added.

The decision of Yanukovych to abandon planned political and free-trade agreements with the EU have prompted a wave of protests from government opponents. The president on Friday further angered the opposition when he discussed the signing of a strategic partnership treaty with Moscow. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is eager for Ukraine to join a Customs Union that some Ukrainians fear would be a first step towards rebuilding the Soviet Union.

"I am convinced that we can overthrow this government with peaceful means," world heavyweight boxing champion and leader of the Udar opposition party, Vitali Klitschko, told the crowd.

Hundreds of thousands also took to the streets last Sunday which led to unprecedented clashes between protesters and riot police, in which hundreds were injured.

Activists subsequently took control of independence square, keeping police out by erecting barricades.

Yanukovych, who faces an election in 2015, has promised a full investigation into the use of force by police, but has said he is not prepared to engage in talks with the opposition.

pfd,ccp/ph (AFP, AP,dpa)

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