Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Euromaidan has Pittered out

Tacitly acknowledging that street protests would not topple Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, one of his leading rivals told demonstrators on Sunday that the opposition would steer the country back towards Europe after winning the next election in 2015.

Tens of thousands of people gathered on Kiev's Independence Square for what has become a weekly event since late November, when Yanukovich's government refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union and turned instead to Russia for an economic rescue package.

The turnout was visibly lower than last week, when it was estimated at about 100,000, as many Ukrainians were busy preparing for the New Year holidays and the Ukrainian Orthdox Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7.

The falling numbers have eased the pressure on the government, which is pressing ahead with forging closer ties with Russia, having secured a $15 billion bailout package from Moscow and a discount on vital Russian gas supplies.

The opposition wants the country of 46 million people to move closer to Europe and escape the grip of Russia, its former imperial master.

"We are preparing to win the presidential elections," said Arseny Yatsenyuk, the leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party. "We are building a team... that will be able to turn Ukraine into a European country."

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