Police dismantle Kiev protest camps.
Ukrainian police have begun dismantling protest camps in front of government buildings in Kiev, the BBC reports.
The protesters, who are demanding the government’s resignation, had been given until Tuesday to leave. No clashes have been reported.The tense stand-off follows weeks of demonstrations after a U-turn on a free-trade deal with the EU.
President Viktor Yanukovych has said talks involving the opposition will be held on Tuesday.
Faced with freezing temperatures as the bitter cold sets in, the protesters who have poured onto the streets of the Ukrainian capital burn tires and sip hot soup and tea to stay warm, CNN informs.
Some play soccer or strum guitars as they camp out in tents. The crowds often swell in size in the evenings as people leave work and join the rallies. The protesters say they are determined not to leave until they succeed in ousting the government. About 100,000 people poured onto the streets Sunday to pile pressure on President Viktor Yanukovich. A group toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin, with some pounding the monument with hammers, leaving pieces scattered on the ground. On Monday, the demonstrators were still out in force, braving snow, waving flags, chanting. They barricaded the cabinet’s headquarters and other government buildings with tents and cars. ”
The protests began when Ukraine refused a deal with the Europe Union, opting instead for closer ties with neighbor Russia.
Police said they were investigating but did not know who had toppled the Lenin statue. Ukraine’s government news agency said a lawmaker with the nationalist Svoboda party claimed responsibility for the incident. “This is the end of Soviet occupation,” the party’s Twitter account said. “End of (the) regime of shame and humiliation.” Numerous statues of Lenin, one of the leaders of the 1917 Russian Revolution, have been removed from Kiev in recent years. The Communist Party decried the attack on the statue. As the capital is convulsed by the protests, the European Commission said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would travel to Kiev this week “to support a way out of the political crisis”. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Yanukovich on Sunday and told the Ukrainian president that he had “grave concern” about the situation, urging authorities not to resort to violence. Yanukovich told the U.N. chief that “consultations would be initiated to defuse the situation,” the United Nations said.
One of the main reasons for Yanukovich’s decision to backpedal on the EU talks is Russia’s threat of trade sanctions and gas bill hikes. Yanukovich met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.