Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Kiev Sunday for what was the largest protest in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution. Some 500,000 people, according to the Associated Press estimates, flooded the streets to angrily demand that President Viktor Yanukovich go back on his plans to forge close ties with Russia while turning away from Europe. The crowds pulled down a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Kiev, decapitating it and hitting it with hammers in what Reuters calls “a symbolic rejection of Moscow’s power.” Protesters allegedly took turns hitting the statue while those around them chanted, “Glory to Ukraine!” Numerous Lenin statues have been removed from Kiev in previous years, notes CNN.
The protesters crowded into Independence Square on Sunday with the rallying cry, “Ukraine is Europe!” Opposition leaders called on Yanukovich to resign and said they gave him 48 hours to get rid of his prime minister or otherwise they would march on his residence outside Kiev and shut him inside, reports the Guardian. The demonstrations began last month but the protests keep growing in a sign of “just how deeply roiled this nation of 46 million people has become in the weeks since Mr. Yanukovich said he would not complete political and free-trade agreements with the European Union that he had been promising to sign for more than a year,” reports the New York Times. It is unclear how the government will respond. So far its apparent strategy of hoping things die down on their own seems to have failed, but a crackdown by security forces could galvanize protesters. Still the opposition is hardly united and there appears to be little agreement among leaders on what they should do next.
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