Ukraine Opposition to Stage New Year Bash to Fuel Protest

Ukraine’s opposition is inviting people to a New Year’s Eve party featuring local rock bands and U.K. guitarist Neil Taylor in an effort to revive its flagging protest movement.

Organizers want to set the Guinness world record for the biggest crowd singing a national anthem simultaneously on Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, the site of anti-government rallies since Nov. 21. The current record is held by the Indian company Sahara India Pariwar, which had 121,653 uniform-clad people sing the country’s anthem on May 6.

“Let’s celebrate the new year at Maidan, let’s celebrate together,” Oles Doniy, an opposition lawmaker said in a televised news conference yesterday. “It will be very interesting and we will have a lot of fun.”

Protesters have occupied the square since President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of a $15 billion bailout and a gas-price cut from Russia. As authorities ignore demands for snap elections and the government’s dismissal, the opposition aims to keep a protest camp going before a presidential vote in March 2015.

The number of demonstrators has been dwindling since a police crackdown drew half a million people to the square early this month. Rallies every Sunday have attracted fewer people closer to the holiday season, which lasts through Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7.

“There may not be as many people now because of holidays,” said Vitali Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion and head of the opposition party Udar, during a live interview with Radio Liberty today. “But people can get together any moment, because the protest mood is very high.”

Last Barricade

In Kiev, temperatures were above zero and a thick fog enveloped the protesters’ camp. The “Last Barricade” artist union called on supporters to flood Maidan, where performances including a traditional Christmas play put on by politicians, activists, journalists and musicians will kick off at 9:30 p.m.

“The New Year on the Barricades will be the coolest New Year’s Eve of your life,” the union said on its website on Jan. 29.

The celebration will include non-alcoholic champagne and food. Ruslana, the Ukrainian singer who won the Eurovision song contest in 2004 and has spent most nights leading rallies from the stage on Independence Square since November, will orchestrate the national anthem, to which Guinness World Records representatives have been invited.

Almost 12,000 policemen will secure public order on New Year’s Eve across Ukraine, according to a statement on the government’s website. Police in Kiev will work “on higher alert,” the Interior Ministry said.

Ukraine’s Hromadske TV will broadcast an alternative to Yanukovych’s annual televised address, showing recorded statements aimed at the president from the people of Ukraine at five minutes to midnight.

(Updates with comments by Klitschko in sixth paragraph.)
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