Ukraine's Yanukovich defends policy, Tymoshenko declares hunger strike

KIEV Mon Nov 25, 2013 4:44pm EST

1 of 2. Protesters wear gas masks during a meeting to support EU integration at European square in Kiev, November 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko

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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich acted on Monday to defuse pro-Europe street protests, saying a decision to suspend moves towards a trade pact with the European Union had been difficult and vowing to bring "European standards" to the country.

As some 4,000 demonstrators protested the government's move last Thursday, Yanukovich said in a television address that the decision had been forced by economic necessity.

"Today I would like to underline this: there is no alternative to the creation of a society of European standards in Ukraine and my policies on this path always have been, and will continue to be, consistent," he said.

Within minutes of his address, fresh clashes broke out involving riot police and protesters just off Kiev's European Square, which is close to government headquarters and where demonstrators have set up a small tent encampment.

Special forces used batons and tear gas against a small group of protesters while other demonstrators listened to speakers denouncing government policy and urging greater integration with the European mainstream. The clashes ended after several minutes and the special forces withdrew.

Yanukovich's government startled European leaders last Thursday by announcing it was suspending preparations for signing an agreement in Vilnius and it would revive talks with Russia, which had objected to the deal.

The government's announcement triggered pro-Europe demonstrations on the streets of the capital, Kiev, and isolated clashes with police.

Even as Yanukovich made his TV address, jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was imprisoned in 2011 after a trial Western governments called politically motivated, declared an "unlimited hunger strike" to push him to sign.

"As a sign of unity with you, I declare an unlimited hunger strike with the demand to Yanukovich to sign the association agreement," the 52-year-old Tymoshenko said in a message to the protesters read out in Kiev by her defense lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko.

Before the expected signing in Vilnius, EU envoys had negotiated unsuccessfully for Tymoshenko's release, seeing her as a victim of "selective justice" in the country.

(Additional reporting by Natalya Zinets; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Larry King)

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Comments (3)
briefal wrote:
Yanukovich has clearly caved to Putin. One can’t tell if he is scared or greedy, but his decision clearly was not made with the best interests of the Ukraine in mind. My bet is Putin made it clear he is a dead man if he goes ahead with the EU pact. Ukraine is geographically and agriculturally very important to Russia. And Putin is ruthless.

Nov 25, 2013 3:14pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Tyshkevich wrote:
I think the benefits Ukraine can get from the trade association are not immediately obvious. Socio-economic improvements will not happen overnight. They may not even happen at all for large groups of the population, as the examples of Serbia, Bulgaria, Rumania or even the Baltic States clearly show. Quick democratic changes are not going to follow Ukraine’s entry into the association either: it takes politically active local people to make that change, not a few fashionably concerned Westerners. In terms of moral norms and values, well, Europe is hands-down bankrupt here: traditional values are sacrificed in favor of hedonistic pursuits; basic common sense is replaced by some kind of ideological soup of politically correct notions and fringe ideas. Europe’s modern culture is burlesque and degenerative. So, why would thousands of young and not-so-young Ukrainians storm their government in rage?

Nov 25, 2013 4:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
briefal wrote:
Tyshkevich, can you offer something specific to support your incredibly specious statement “Europe is hands-down bankrupt here: traditional values are sacrificed in favor of hedonistic pursuits; basic common sense is replaced by some kind of ideological soup of politically correct notions and fringe ideas.”? Just claiming it is so doesn’t make it true. That line is only something someone very pro-Russian could have come up. Russia is a state where political murders take place regularly and no one is ever caught, and where anyone that has any chance of opposing Putin is imprisoned on false charges. Europe comes off looking pretty good by comparison.

Nov 25, 2013 7:18pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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