Ukrainians Take Anger Over Trade Into The Streets

In Ukraine, protests continue over President Viktor Yanukovych's rejection of closer trade ties with the European Union. Protesters believe the president will opt instead for closer trade ties with Russia and several former Soviet republics.

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(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Those are protestors who converged on the capital city of Ukraine today. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered for a massive anti-government protest. It's part of a struggle over whether the country will align itself with Europe or with its former Soviet partner Russia.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Kiev.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: That chant has become the slogan and war cry of protesters here in the Maidan, the central square of Kiev. It goes: Glory to Ukraine, followed by the response: to heroes, glory. I'm standing in the midst of a sea of people, filling this vast square that holds a monument to Ukraine's independence. In front of me, the air is filled with waving flags - the blue-and-yellow flags of Ukraine, the blue-and-gold starred flags of the EU, and the banners of the various opposition parties. There's a central stage here where speakers and performers are firing up this huge crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: That's the daughter of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, reading a statement from her mother, the president's bitter political rival who's now in prison on what the opposition says were trumped-up charges. The statement says President Yanukovych has decided to join the club of dictators. People at the protest seem to agree.

This is Kostyantyn Yakovchuk-Besarab, a 31-year-old director at an outsourcing company.

KOSTYANTYN YAKOVCHUK-BESARAB: Such number of people here is the proof that Ukraine is pro-European country, even though our government officials don't think this.

FLINTOFF: Protesters fear that government officials are cutting a secret deal that would align Ukraine more tightly with its former Soviet partner, Russia. They say that could trigger even bigger protests than Ukraine is seeing now.

RATH: That's NPR's Corey Flintoff, reporting from Kiev's central square.

Earlier today, in another part of the city, right-wing nationalists pulled down a statue of Communist icon Vladimir Lenin. This is NPR News.

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