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Protesters won't waver on demands for change.

Byline: David M. Herszenhorn

KIEV, Ukraine -- Furious over President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to scrap political and trade accords with Europe, Mykola Nomonko shut his auto parts store in the western city of Staryi Sambir, piled his five employees into a minibus and drove to the capital, Kiev, to protest. It was Nov. 24. Nearly two weeks later, he is still here.

Like many of the thousands of demonstrators who are occupying Independence Square and several public buildings, Nomonko said he would not leave until Yanukovych was ousted. "He has to resign,'' Nomonko said. "People became so angry that they will stand here to the end -- to the happy end of Yanukovych's career. We wait for the political death of Viktor Yanukovych.''

Leaders of the protest movement have dropped their demands for Yanukovych's removal, acknowledging that there is virtually no legal way to oust him and that a voluntary resignation is unlikely. But demonstrators on the streets insist overwhelmingly that they will not relent without changes at the highest levels of government.

With rumors swirling that Yanukovych cut a secret deal with Russia during a meeting Friday with President Vladimir V. Putin in Sochi, Russia, the anger directed at him has become an increasingly volatile and unpredictable force.

The Ukrainian and Russian governments denied the rumors, despite public comments by the Ukrainian prime minister, Mykola Azarov, who said progress had been made toward a sweeping strategic partnership. The denials did little to reassure protesters, who say they do not trust the leaders of either country.

Developments could start unfolding more rapidly now that Yanukovych is back in Ukraine after visits to China and Russia. Protesters are planning their biggest event yet Sunday: a rally they hope will put 1 million people on the streets.

Many Ukrainians felt deeply betrayed by Yanukovych's decision to abandon far-reaching trade and political accords with Europe last month, particularly because he had promised for more than a year that he would sign them. But a decision to join Russia's customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, effectively closing the path to European integration, would enrage the crowds gathered in Kiev and other cities and could set off violence.

"These people are motivated,'' said Yaroslav Pylynskyi, the director of the Kiev office of the Kennan Institute, an American research organization. "They know what they want politically. They say 'korruptzia zadrala' -- corruption is tearing us to pieces.''
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Author:Herszenhorn, David M.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:4EXUR
Date:Dec 8, 2013
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