More than 100,000 demonstrators chased away police to rally in the center of Ukraine's capital today, defying a government ban on protests on Independence Square, in the biggest show of anger over the president's refusal to sign an agreement with the European Union. The protest was led by prominent opposition politicians, who demanded that President Viktor Yanukovych and his government resign. They also called for a nationwide strike and for tents to be set up to allow demonstrators to remain on the square around the clock.
The crowd was by far the largest since the protests began more than a week ago. Protests have been held daily in Kiev since Yanukovych backed away from an agreement that would have established free trade and deepened political cooperation between Ukraine and the EU. He justified the decision by saying that Ukraine could not afford to break trade ties with Russia; many Ukrainians want to see their country break out of Moscow's orbit. Today's demonstration also was energized by anger over the violent dispersal of several hundred protesters at Independence Square early yesterday. Some of the protesters were left bleeding from their heads after riot police beat them with truncheons.