Kiev Braces for Huge Pro-EU Protest Sunday
Pro-EU protest organizers in the Ukrainian capital Kiev say they expect huge demonstrations on Sunday.
They hope that up to one million people will turn out and will make the rally the largest since the Orange Revolution in 2004.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaly Zaharchenko has said that security forces will react to threats against employees of the police and the judiciary.
On Saturday, several thousand supporters of the EU deal braved snow and swirling winds as they maintained control of Kiev's Independence Square for the seventh successive day.
Citizens and university students have been staging mass rallies for two weeks in Kiev against President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU.
Rallies have been held in Odessa, Lvov, and other cities
Violent clashes with riot police were reported with many demonstrators sustaining serious injuries after being attacked with batons and teargas. A number of protesters have been reported missing.
On Tuesday, Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) rejected the no-confidence vote against the government, scheduled on the opposition's request.
Protest leaders have set out three conditions for any negotiations with President Yanukovych: the resignation of his government, the release of protesters arrested during clashes in Kiev and the punishment of those responsible for beating demonstrators.
The Ukrainian opposition, which has united in support of the pro-EU rallies, has been further provoked to urge huge protests for Sunday after unofficial reports that Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have been holding secret weekend meetings to debate Kiev joining a Moscow-led customs union.
However, both Russia and Ukraine said the issue had not been discussed.
"The issue of Ukraine joining the customs union was not discussed during the meeting in Sochi," according to Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov and a statement from Yanukovych's office.
Correspondents had earlier speculated that an agreement on Ukraine joining the customs union might be reached in return for reduced energy prices.
Peskov said differences with Ukraine on reducing the price of Russian gas have been narrowed after talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Meanwhile, special headquarters for "stabilizing the political situation" have been established all over Ukraine to provide information to young people about processes in the country.