WASHINGTON — European Union leaders plan to discuss the bloc's relations with Ukraine at an EU summit Friday in Brussels. This comes after the EU announced it was suspending talks on pacts with Ukraine's government following President Viktor Yanukovych decision last month against signing an association agreement with the bloc.
Protests have been growing in Ukraine since President Yanukovych set aside a long-anticipated trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.
On Thursday, thousands of demonstrators massed in Kyiv's Independence Square to denounce Yanukovych's outreach to Russia. They also criticized a $15 billion aid package he negotiated with Moscow to help his country's struggling economy.
Yana Honbar, an anti-government protester, called the package a "bad deal."
"Of course it's a bad deal. Firstly, it is just junk. The credit he has taken will not be used for people's needs. Secondly, we still don't know all the details, all the aspects of the deal. And thirdly, Yanukovych never took into consideration what's been happening on Maidan and is afraid of the word itself," said Honbar, referring to Kyiv’s Maidan, the local name for the square where the protests have been centered.
At a news conference Thursday, Yanukovych defended the aid package, saying it will not affect future integration with the EU.
He also criticized the West for supporting massive street protests calling for his ouster.
"It is very important, very important, it is an internal issue for u. And let no country interfere in our internal affairs. Let them not think they can be bosses here, whether on the Maidan or not! I am very seriously against the fact that someone can come to our country and teach us how to live," said Yanukovych.
Earlier this week, U.S. Senator John McCain visited Kyiv and assured protesters the EU and Ukraine will both benefit from forming ties with one another.