Hundreds of thousands of protesters in Ukraine took to the streets today in another mass demonstration of anger against President Viktor F. Yanukovich's decision to break off negotiations with the European Union.
The protests culminated in the destruction of a statue of Lenin, a symbol of Russian influence on its neighboring country. Protests have been building for weeks, with demonstrators taking to the street on a daily basis, occupying the City Hall and turning Kiev's main city square to a large tent encampment.
President Yanukovich met Friday with Russian President Putin, which infuriated the protesters. Ukraine, which is facing severe economic turmoil, needs to secure a financial aid package of $18 billion dollars. The proposed deal with the European Union would have brought Ukraine closer to the West, but also would have stipulated strict German-mandated austerity measures. Fearing retribution from Russian, President Yanukovich broke off negotiations, leading Ukraine to a political crisis that will end in either the resignation of the Yanukovich government, or severe police repression.
Champion boxer and leader of the opposition party Vitali Klitschko called for the continuation of the protests.
"We call for a strike," he told reporters. "I am convinced we can press the authorities, peacefully, and win."
Protesters have decried the secretive negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, the latter of which looks to create a regional trade block that would rival the European Union.