Anti-government protests again continued in Ukraine over the weekend after nearly four weeks of demonstrations, sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union.

But after talks over the agreement had resumed earlier in the week, it seems work has been placed “on hold,” according to remarks made on social media by an EU official on Sunday.

From CNN, EU puts Ukraine deal on hold, McCain addresses protesters:

The European Union has halted work on a trade agreement with Ukraine, an official said Sunday, after Kiev failed to show “clear commitment” to signing the deal.

Stefan Fule, European commissioner for enlargement and European neighborhood policy, said on Twitter that the words and deeds of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his government on the proposed pact were “further & further apart. Their arguments have no grounds in reality.”

Fule said he had told Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov in Brussels, Belgium, last week that further discussion on the agreement was conditional on a clear commitment by Kiev to sign the deal, but he had received no response.

“Work on hold, had no answer,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy have been in Ukraine this weekend, where they addressed a large crowd of anti-government protesters and expressed support for their cause.

From the Washington Post:

A showdown between Russia, on one side, and the United States and the European Union, on the other, drew closer here Sunday, as two American senators told a crowd of hundreds of thousands of protesters that Ukraine’s future lies to the west, not the east.

“We are here,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), “to support your just cause: the sovereign right to determine [Ukraine’s] own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe.”

“Ukraine’s future stands with Europe, and the U.S. stands with Ukraine,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

The crowd chanted the Ukrainian word of approval — “molodtsi” — but the president whom the opposition so despises, Viktor Yanukovych, is heading Tuesday to Russia to cement deals involving natural gas purchases and financial credits to prop up his country’s ailing economy.

While perhaps not as large as their rival protesters’ demonstrations, pro-government crowds gathered over the weekend for rallies as well, according to the Washington Post.

A smaller rally of about 15,000 people, also arrayed in Ukrainian flag paraphernalia, showed its support for Yanukovych in a hilltop park near the parliament building. “We’re here so this can all end peacefully,” said Lyudmila Akhmedzhanova, 50, a teacher who, unusually for a Yanukovych supporter, comes from western Ukraine. “And we’re here for the European Union.”

She said she was not opposed to an eventual alliance with the European Union, but thought now was not the time. “We’re supporting Yanukovych because we need to wait a little,” Akhmedzhanova said. “With time, we can come to a European level.”

At promptly 4 p.m., the pro-Yanukovych crowd dispersed. “These are all bureaucrats,” said Bogdan Vuyko, 57, who lives in Sevastopol and came to observe both camps. Most of the pro-government demonstrators were not from Kiev, he said. “They have to get home and get to work tomorrow.”

Vuyko said some of his friends had been pressed into attending the pro-government rally by Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, which organized the event. “Nobody’s actually listening to the speakers,” he said.

(Featured image credit: Reuters video via Globe and Mail)


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