KIEV — Thousands protested in the Ukrainian capital Friday, demanding the president’s resignation after he shelved a landmark agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Many protesters holding Ukrainian and EU flags tore pictures of President Viktor Yanukovych, who ditched the free trade pact with the EU at Friday’s summit in Vilnius.
Yanukovych abruptly changed the course for integration with the EU last week when his government announced it was suspending preparations for signing the agreement. The move angered many in the Ukraine, where nearly half of the population favors closer ties with the EU.
Yanukovych argued that Ukraine can’t afford to sacrifice trade with Russia, which has tried to block the deal by banning some of Ukraine’s imports and threatening more trade sanctions.
The next year, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison on abuse of office charges, which critics have called politically motivated.
The EU made the deal with Ukraine conditional on Tymoshenko’s release, but Yanukovych — who is wary that she could challenge him in a 2015 vote — rejected the demand.