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Ukrainian protesters occupy Kiev square after violent clashes

Update: December, 02/2013 - 11:15

KIEV – Thousands of protesters camped out on Monday in Kiev's central square after violent clashes during huge demonstrations calling for early elections after the Ukraine rejected a historic EU pact.

Scores of police and protesters were injured in Sunday's clashes, which broke out as more than 100,000 outraged Ukrainians swarmed the capital.

Defying a protest ban, the energetic crowd chanted "Revolution!" and "Down with the gang" as it drove dozens of helmeted police off Independence Square. Protesters also steered a bulldozer near metal barricades protecting the nearby presidential administration office.

Security forces outside President Viktor Yanukovych's seat of power fire dozens of stun grenades and smoke bombs at masked demonstrators who were pelting police with stones and Molotov cocktails.

Kiev police spokeswoman Olga Bilyk said by telephone that about 100 officers were wounded in the clashes. A mayor's office official said nearly 50 demonstrators had also been treated by doctors for various injuries.

The economically struggling nation of 46 million was thrown into its deepest crisis since the 2004 Orange Revolution when Yanukovych snubbed EU leaders at a summit on Friday.

About 50,000 pro-EU supporters also rallied in the Ukrainian-speaking western city of Lviv, while 250 ignored a court ban in Yanukovych's native region of Donetsk.

What the opposition describes as the largest Kiev protest since the 2004 uprising also saw a few dozen members of the nationalist Svoboda party take control of an empty Kiev city hall building.

The post-EU summit violence broke out in the early hours of Saturday when hundreds of baton-wielding police drove about 1,000 protesters from Independence Square.

That unrest resulted in about 30 injuries and prompted the resignation Sunday of the head of Kiev's police.

Sunday's rally came in open defiance of a court ban imposed late Saturday on all protests in Independence Square and its surrounding streets until January 7.

A joint statement issued Sunday by Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt – two leaders spearheading the EU's expansion east – also expressed support for the rallies. AFP

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