KIEV, December 1 (RIA Novosti) – Police and protesters engaged in running street battles Sunday in front of Ukraine’s presidential administration in the capital as anger grows at a government decision to pull back from signing a deal for closer relations with the EU.
Nearby in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, hundreds of thousands of people, many of them waving national flags, gathered in a separate peaceful demonstration on Independence Square.
Discontent at the reversal over the conclusion of a series of EU deals that had been due to be signed last week is increasingly escalating into calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Protests have been taking place for more than a week in Kiev, but took a sour turn Saturday morning when police violently cleared Independence Square, which served as the focal point of the Orange Revolution in the winter of 2004.
The violence continued for a second day running Sunday as a group of people attempted to storm the presidential administration building.
A group of protesters used a bulldozer to break through police cordons surrounding the presidential administration.
Opposition deputies arrived at the scene and appealed to people not to storm the building after protesters threw rocks at police, who responded by deploying tear gas and stun grenades.
Government opponent and businessman Petro Poroshenko said the people attempting to storm the presidential administration had nothing to do with the broader protest movement and called their actions a provocation.
The Interior Ministry said 100 officers had been injured in the clashes. Officials had said earlier in the day that two policemen were injured by the bulldozer. The city government said 22 protesters had sought treatment for injuries sustained during clashes.
Ukrainian and Russian TV channels reported that protesters had managed to enter the city administration building, and showed footage of activists sitting in the building’s main meeting hall.
Opposition politician Vitali Klitschko called on protesters to refrain from illegal activities.
“If anyone incites you to go and storm state institutions, it could be very dangerous. Don’t be fooled by provocateurs,” Klitschko said at the rally on Independence Square on Sunday.
Another group of young people broke into the trade union headquarters in the center of Kiev, the UNIAN news agency reported.
Protests began in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities after the country unexpectedly announced on November 21 that it was postponing preparations for the signing of agreements with the EU that it had been expected to sign at a summit that ended Friday.
Ukraine’s government said it would instead focus on strengthening its ties with its neighbor Russia, which had threatened Ukraine with stricter customs rules if it went ahead with the EU pact.
On Saturday, riot police violently dispersed the protest on Independence Square, eliciting condemnation from politicians and the public both inside and outside the former Soviet state.
The crackdown appears to have poured fuel on the flames of the protest movement.
Updates with number of injured police and protesters.