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Protests Continue in Ukraine Against Refusal to Sign EU Deal

Ukrainians on Wednesday kept up their nearly week-long protest against the government's decision not to sign a landmark trade deal with the EU in favor of increasing ties with Russia.

About 5,000 people gathered on Independence Square in Kyiv. Some signed their names on a huge cloth banner to be delivered to President Viktor Yanukovych urging Ukraine to enter into the trade agreement with the EU.

Earlier Wednesday, at least 1,000 protesters gathered outside a government building in Kyiv.

Three opposition leaders participating in the protests failed to gain entry to the Cabinet of Ministers building while a meeting was taking place there.

Vitaly Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleg Tyagnibok had hoped to meet with the ministers to ask them to reconsider their decision and sign the pact with the EU as originally planned.

Ukraine's signing of the trade deal was to take place at a two-day EU summit that begins Thursday in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

Mr. Yanukovych is still planning to attend the summit to discuss the possibility of three-way talks with Russia and the EU on Ukraine's economy.

EU leaders have accused Russia of exerting political and economic pressure on Ukraine to delay the signing of the political and trade agreement. Russia denies doing so.

The Ukrainian government's decision last week not to sign the deal has sparked a wave of protests by pro-EU demonstrators.

Tens of thousands of pro-Europe demonstrators swarmed Kyiv last Sunday in one of the largest protests since the Orange Revolution nine years ago.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has started a hunger strike, hoping to force the Ukrainian government to sign the trade agreement.

Part of the EU pact requires legislation freeing the former prime minister. Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution, was jailed in 2011 and is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abuse of office. The EU has called her trial politically motivated.

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