70,000 RALLY IN KYIV IN FRESH SHOW OF FORCE

Newsmax on February 9, 2014, reported that an estimated 70,000 pro-Western Ukrainians thronged the heart of Kiev vowing never to give up their drive to oust President Viktor Yanukovych for his alliance with old master Russia. Excerpts below:

Wearing blue and yellow ribbons — the colors of both Ukraine and the European Union — the crowd received a religious blessing before opposition leaders took to a podium on Independence Square in a bid to ratchet up pressure on Yanukovych to appoint a new pro-Western government.

“None of the kidnappings and tortures have yielded any results,” said Igor Lutsenko, who was grabbed by assailants during deadly unrest in January and beaten up at the same time as another activist who was later found dead.

Speaking from Lithuania where he is being treated after being tortured, Dmytro Bulatov, another activist, said he had no intention of giving up.

“We will go further,” he said by phone in a conversation broadcast over a loudspeaker to the crowds.

Yanukovych has already yielded to some opposition demands by dismissing the government, but he also has to appease Russia, which has effectively frozen a much-needed $15 billion bailout until the situation clears up.

The embattled Ukrainian leader held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 7 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on the sidelines of the opening of the Winter Olympics.

“We hope that authorities will make concessions and that agreements with the opposition will bring results. Because the authorities look like Somali pirates who take hostages and then negotiate,” 29-year-old Oleksandr Zaveroukha, who had come from western Ukraine, told AFP in Independence Square.

“We are determined to stay until the end.”

Alex Brideau, an analyst for political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said the actions of the protesters were a “key wildcard in the political standoff,”…

Leading Ukrainian lawmakers are expected to meet on February 10 to discuss opposition proposals to slash presidential powers and return to a pre-2010 constitution that swayed the balance towards parliament.

Ukraine’s tattered economy is in ever-growing need of assistance amid sliding domestic production and dwindling foreign reserves.

Moscow is already demanding the repayment of a $3.3 billion debt that Ukraine built up since last year for Russian natural gas imports on which the country’s industries and households depend.

The protracted crisis has seen Ukraine’s borrowing costs spike and the currency lose nearly 10 percent of its value as frightened consumers rush to stock up on dollars and euros. Several banks have reported hard currency shortages.

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