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Ukrainian Protesters Block Government Buildings

Thousands of Ukrainian protesters blocked access to the country's main government buildings Monday in an attempt to bring down the government of President Viktor Yanukovych over his refusal to sign a free trade pact with the European Union.

Hundreds of people blocked the entrance to the Cabinet and central bank buildings in Kyiv, a day after more than 100,000 protesters gathered in the capital for a massive rally.

During a press conference Monday, Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said early elections were the only way to end the standoff.

"The political way to resolve this political crisis is through early presidential and parliamentary elections. That's a key demand not only from the Ukrainian opposition, but from the entire Ukrainian nation."

Lawmakers in Parliament are set to discuss the situation on Tuesday, including demands to recall the government in a no-confidence vote.

The demonstrations have been growing since November 21 when Mr. Yanukovych backed out of the EU trade deal, saying Ukraine needed to continue its close ties with Russia.

European news reports say the EU-Ukraine deal began unraveling in late October when Moscow demanded that cash-strapped Kyiv immediately make full payment of a nearly $1 billion natural gas bill, or face a gas cutoff as winter hits the region.

The protests in Kyiv turned violent Sunday as police responded with tear gas and flash grenades to a few thousand demonstrators who broke away from a peaceful rally and tried to storm a nearby administration building.

The crowd was defying a government order against demonstrations. Ambulances carried dozens of injured people to hospitals.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday called for restraint on both sides.

"We already said very clearly that Ukraine authorities should respect of course democratic freedoms and the right of people to demonstrate, at the same time we have made an appeal to demonstrators to show restraint and of course this comes as a result of the fact that many, many Ukrainians see their future in Europe and they are disappointed with the result of the Vilnius summit. But we hope that the dialogue will continue and that calm will be respected and so that we can address these issues in a spirit that is good for Ukraine, for the citizens of Ukraine and for all of us in Europe."

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