KYIV — Thousands of anti-government protesters in Ukraine took part in a symbolic funeral of President Viktor Yanukovych on Sunday near his private residence outside the capital Kyiv.
Protesters carried a coffin along the street leading to Yanukovych but were stopped riot police blocking the road.
“I've been standing at Euro-Maidan (referring to Independence Square in central Kyiv) for a month and I see that our president does not hear what we say. That's why I think it was worth coming here to show him how many people are against his actions, against what's happening in our country. One cannot live in the country where people are beaten, where people are humiliated. I'm proud that today hundreds and thousands of conscious, adequate, well-behaved people came here to express their opinion,” said Olga Lukyanets, a protester.
Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko and Oleh Tyahnybok, who earlier addressed tens of thousands of people gathered on Kyiv's Independence square, joined protesters near the presidential residence.
“We are confident that we have to change the system and we need to start from the election of the president. Early elections, yes?” asked Vitaly Klitschko addressing the rally, and heard back a loud “yes”.
“This gang has to know that Ukrainians will not stop. The more repression they use against the Ukrainian people - the stronger will be the reaction of the Ukrainian society, because we have nowhere to retreat. This is our land!”, said Oleh Tyahnybok as he addressed the protest.
Sunday's protests were called following an attack on an opposition activist and investigative journalist Tetyana Chornovil.
Chornovil, 34, was chased down by a car and beaten shortly after midnight on Wednesday, hours after posting pictures on her blog of a country home she said belonged to Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko.
The attack threatened to breathe new life into more than a month of opposition protests in Kyiv over a decision by the government in November to spurn a landmark pact on closer ties with the European Union and turn instead to former Soviet master Moscow.
However, turnout at rallies has diminished over successive weekends from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.