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Ukraine President to Attend EU Summit, Despite Scrapping Deal

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych will attend this week's summit with the European Union despite his government's last minute decision not to sign a landmark trade agreement with the EU in favor of increasing ties with Russia.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Tuesday that Mr. Yanukovych will attend this week's summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, to discuss the possibility of holding three-way talks with Russia and the EU on Ukraine's economy.

"We absolutely do not want to be a battlefield between the EU and Russia, a field of confrontation. We want to have good relations with both the EU and Russia and to be able to develop through this. That's our position."

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

The decision to end the deal has sparked a massive wave of protests by pro-EU demonstrators. On Tuesday, thousands of Ukrainian students marched through the capital, Kyiv, joining other round-the-clock demonstrations meant to pressure the government to sign the deal.

More rallies are planned ahead of the two-day summit in Vilnius which begins Thursday.

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

In related developments, Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko announced on Monday she would start a hunger strike in solidarity with the protesters.

Part of the EU pact included 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 European Union has called her trial politically motivated.

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