Ukraine's opposition leaders on Tuesday denounced a $15 billion bailout package from Russia and an offer of cheaper gas as a sell-out of the national interest by President Viktor Yanukovych, vowing to block its passage through parliament.
Within two hours of the deal being announced in Moscow, the three opposition leaders urged crowds on Kiev's Independence Square to keep rallying against Yanukovych's U-turn in policy away from the European Union towards Russia.
“He has given up Ukraine's national interests, given up independence and prospects for a better life for every Ukrainian,” Vitaly Klitschko, one of the three leaders, told cheering crowds on the square.
“I know of only one place where you can find free cheese - and that's in a mouse-trap,” said Arseny Yatsenyuk, a former economy minister and another opposition leader.
“If Yanukovich has got $15 billion free of charge and got a reduction in gas to the sum of another $5 billion - all in all $20 billion - then we want to hear what he has given away.”
Yatsenyuk said opposition deputies would block parliamentary proceedings, as they have done several times in the past, to prevent the deal with Russia going through. “Not a single document which contradicts European integration will pass the procedure of voting in parliament,” he said.
Klitschko, a world heavyweight boxing champion and a contender for the presidency, called for early elections, adding: “He [Yanukovych] is my personal opponent. I am challenging him in the ring.”
Up to 50,000 people gathered on the square, the heart of mass demonstrations that have gripped Kiev for nearly a month, to hear the opposition leaders speak
Protesters exclaimed “Glory to Ukraine!” and demanded the resignation of Yanukovich and his government, chanting “No!” when opposition leaders asked if they agreed to the Moscow deals.
Portraits of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov are seen at a barricade during a rally in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
A woman passes by Interior Ministry personnel as they block pro-EU demonstrators near the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
Ukrainian pro-EU demonstrators warm themselves by a fire during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
A pile of garbage bags left by pro-European integration protesters lies in front of riot police officers in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
A Pro-European Union activist guards an entrance to the tent camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 19, 2013.
A man reads a newspaper with a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the front page during a pro-European Union rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 19, 2013.
Pro-European Union activists warm themselves sitting in their shelter inside a barricade during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Dec. 18, 2013.
Pro-European Union activists pass through a police line as they march against the government in Kyiv, Dec. 17, 2013.
A pro-European Union activist stands while warming himself near a bonfire at a heavily fortified tent camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 17, 2013.
A man stacks wooden bars showing names of Ukrainian cities and settlements that are hometowns of demonstrators, during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 16, 2013.
Pro-European integration protesters eat free meals near a barricade during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 16, 2013.
Pro-European Union activists rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Dec. 15, 2013.