KIEV, December 4 (RIA Novosti) – A Ukrainian opposition leader vowed on Wednesday that pro-EU protesters in Kiev, thousands of whom were rallying outside the presidential administration, the cabinet of ministers and the parliament, would soon besiege more government buildings.
Arseny Yatsenyuk, a leader of the Fatherland opposition parliamentary faction, said a group of activists currently rallying on Independence Square, in the heart of the city, would within the next few hours move to the headquarters of the country’s National Security Council and the Interior Ministry.
“We are also preparing a nationwide strike,” Yatsenyuk said, adding that more and more people would join the protests “so that [President] Viktor Yanukovych and all of Ukraine see that this is not just a political rally, it’s the Ukrainian people rising in protest against the actions of the authorities.”
The protesters are also set to besiege Kiev’s Shevchenko District Court, where cases of detained activists are currently being heard. Nine people remain in custody following violent clashes between protesters and police over the weekend.
Earlier this week, opposition leaders vowed to go ahead with the rallies, in which thousands of people took to the streets of Kiev to protest the government’s decision to postpone the signing of political and free-trade agreements with the European Union.
The rallies evolved into broader anti-government unrest after riot police violently cleared Independence Square early Saturday.
In an apparent bid to ease the growing discontent, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov invited opposition members to join further negotiations with the European Union.
The premier, who traveled to Brussels on Wednesday for further talks with the EU, said the opposition might also send its representatives to oversee the work of investigative teams looking into the circumstances of the crackdown.
Kiev’s city administration healthcare department said that according to the latest figures, 305 people have sought medical aid since the rallies turned violent, and 120 of them have been hospitalized. The authorities have dismissed media reports that one protester died.
The three former presidents of Ukraine – Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko – issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on the incumbent authorities to investigate the violence.
“We urge an unbiased investigation of every instance of excessive use of force and that those who have protested peacefully to be free of criminal prosecution,” the statement said. “Signs of radicalization, violence and totalitarian rule must not be treated as a legitimate response to views [expressed] by hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians.”
Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who earlier this week apologized to protesters for the crackdown, ordered police on Wednesday to “avoid the use of force against peaceful protesters.”
But he warned protest leaders that they were personally responsible for the safety of their supporters.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine’s ruling party called for its supporters to come out onto the streets in defense of government buildings.