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Protests continue in Kiev ahead of EU summit in Vilnius

KIEV, Nov. 28 — About 300 people rallied on Kiev’s central Independence Square in freezing temperatures Thursday morning as protests over Ukraine’s decision not to sign a key trade pact with the EU entered their second week.

As the EU summit at which the agreements were due to be signed prepared to open its doors in Lithuania, protesters in Kiev left European Square and the government building where rallies had been held on Wednesday to congregate on Independence Square, the scene of the country’s 2004 Orange Revolution, when hundreds of thousands gathered demanding new presidential elections.

Writers and other public figures addressed the pro-EU integration crowd gathered on the square Thursday morning as temperatures hovered around freezing. Protesters huddled around fires lit in large metal barrels or sought warmth in a heated army tent erected on the square by the protest’s organizers.

The protests in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities began on November 21, hours after the unexpected announcement that Ukraine had suspended a landmark association agreement and free trade deal with the EU in favor of strengthening its economic ties with Russia.

The EU is still prepared to sign the association agreement with Ukraine if Kiev changes its mind, EU commissioner Stefan Fule said Thursday in Vilnius, where the Eastern Partnership summit at which the agreements were expected to be signed was due to get under way later the same day.

Ukrainians who oppose the EU agreement staged a theatrical rally of their own Thursday, carrying a coffin symbolizing the agreement through the streets of Kiev to the EU’s representative office there.

Russia, which has urged Ukraine to join a Moscow-led Customs Union trade bloc, had repeatedly warned its smaller neighbor against signing the EU agreements, describing the step as “suicidal,” and welcomed last week’s decision.

A monastery in Vilnius said it would lead a holy procession there for people to pray for Ukraine to embrace European values, the Lithuanian news agency Elta reported.

Fellow former Soviet states Georgia and Moldova – both of whom have had prickly relations with Moscow since gaining independence – are due to sign similar agreements at this week’s summit. (PNA/RIA Novosti)


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