Ukrainian protesters clashed with police Tuesday after being stopped from a march to the Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv.
Witnesses said protesters threw stones at police after their path was blocked, and police responded with smoke bombs and rubber bullets.
The protesters have been gathering for weeks to call for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych after he backed off a trade deal with the European Union in November in favor of closer ties with Russia.
On Monday, Russia said it will release an additional $2 billion to Ukraine to support its moribund economy, a move seen as strengthening President Yanukovych’s bid to remain in power.
Officials say the eurobond purchase by Moscow is in addition to the $3 billion it bought late last year. The money is part of a $15 billion loan promised by Russia.
The protests in Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities have spawned widespread media coverage in the West and calls for more democracy in the former Soviet republic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel – a leading figure in the 28-member EU trade bloc – met Monday with two Ukrainian opposition leaders; boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko and Arseni Yatsenyuk.
Klitschko, writing ahead of the meeting in the German daily Bild, said the opposition was seeking EU support for sanctions against the Yanukovych government and EU help in curbing the powers of the Ukrainian president.
A Merkel spokesman was later quoted by Deutsche Welle as saying the chancellor voiced “sympathy for the legitimate concerns of the Ukrainian people.” But he said Ms. Merkel did not agree with calls for sanctions at this time.
EU and U.S. officials have repeatedly said they are working with the International Monetary Fund on details of an aid package that analysts have described as rivaling or exceeding the Russian bailout deal. But so far no concrete offers have been made public.