Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Anti-Government Protesters in Ukraine Revving Up Opposition Leaders, President Meet

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Anti-Government Protesters in Ukraine Revving Up Opposition Leaders, President Meet

Article excerpt

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainians are bracing for competing demonstrations in Kiev today pitting the anti-government camp against supporters of the country's embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych.

It could be a repeat of Saturday when two large, swirling crowds faced off in Kiev in public squares less than a quarter of a mile apart.

One was the huge, anti-government, pro-Europe demonstration that has electrified this capital since late last month. The other was composed of tens of thousands who poured into central Kiev for a counter rally in support of the embattled Mr. Yanukovych.

By Saturday evening, the pro-government crowd had disappeared for the night, leaving the police guarding a virtually empty plaza. The anti-government protesters in Independence Square, by comparison, were revving up, waiting with excitement for a performance by Okean Elzy, one of Ukraine's most popular rock bands ahead of another night out in the cold.

The contrast was one of several signals that momentum in the uprising over the president's refusal to sign political and trade accords with the European Union might be shifting.

Mr. Yanukovych, who had initially been dismissive of the protest movement and even flown off for a trip to China, met with opposition leaders on Friday and announced Saturday that he had indefinitely suspended two officials, the Kiev city manager, Oleksandr Popoov, and deputy national security chief, Volodomyr Sivkovych, over allegations about their role in a violent crackdown by the police on protesters on Nov. 30.

"Everything that has happened in the last 24 to 48 hours is breaking in favor of a resolution toward the Maidan," said Adrian Karatnycky, an expert on Ukraine with the Atlantic Council of the United States, referring to Independence Square.

Particularly significant, said Mr. Karatnycky, who was in Kiev last week, was the shifting support among oligarchs who control several factions in Parliament -- a move that he said had probably been encouraged by the continued strength of the crowds on the street. …

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