Ukraine Opposition, Ruling Party Protests Draw Thousands to Kiev

Thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets of the capital today as the opposition demanded the release of jailed ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko, and the ruling party organized a rival demonstration.

The opposition said that around 50,000 people came to Sofiivska square in downtown Kiev, while police estimated around 6,500 people attended the rally as of 12:30 p.m., according to a statement on the Interior Ministry’s website.

President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions said that over 50,000 people attended its demonstration against attempts by “political extremists to revive an ideology of national enmity, racial and religion intolerance.”

Tymoshenko was convicted in October 2011 for abusing her powers when as prime minister she signed a 10-year natural gas agreement with Russia in 2009. Yanukovych, who won the presidential election over Tymoshenko in 2010, said the deal cost Ukraine $6 billion a year.

Ukraine’s association agreement with the European Union, planned for 2011, has been delayed by the imprisonment of Tymoshenko, which the EU called an act of selective justice.

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