Ukraine’s EU option still open amid stand-off with protesters

With protesters occupying Kiev’s Independence Square, the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, is facing the prospect of a general strike amid anger over his decision to cancel an agreement with the European Union.

Activists have set up barricades to keep police away from parts of central Kiev and have blockaded key government buildings, following clashes with police over the weekend.

Opposition figures have called for Yanukovych’s resignation over his late decision not to sign the deal, which caused 350,000 people to protest Saturday and Sunday.

It was the country’s largest show of anger since the Orange Revolution of late 2004 and early 2005, in which a presidential election result in favor of Yanukovych was overturned amid allegations of vote rigging.

The president said the proposed EU deal did not come with sufficient financial incentives, although pressure from Russia, which is trying to sign up Ukraine to a customs union, has often been cited as being the main factor behind the move to pull back from the agreement.

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(September 2013 archive photo of Herman van Rompuy, Viktor Yanukovych and Jose Barroso: EC Audiovisual Service)