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Ukrainian protesters topple Lenin statue in challenge to Yanukovich

Crowds toppled a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in the Ukrainian capital and attacked it with hammers in the latest mass protests against President Viktor Yanukovich and his plans for closer ties with Russia.

The statue's felling - a symbolic rejection of Moscow's power - came after opposition leaders told hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to keep up pressure on Yanukovich to sack his government.

A Reuters reporter at the scene saw the protesters breaking up the statue with hammers after using ropes and metal bars to bring it crashing down.

The demonstrators are furious with the Yanukovich government for its decision to ditch a landmark pact with the European Union in favour of a trade deal with Moscow, Ukraine's Soviet-era overlord.

Yanukovich's sudden tack towards Russia has provoked the biggest street protests since the 2004-5 Orange Revolution, when people power forced a re-run of a fraud-tainted election and thwarted his first run for the presidency.

Today's rally marked a further escalation in weeks of confrontation between the authorities and protesters that have raised fears for political and economic stability in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.

"This is a decisive moment when all Ukrainians have gathered here because they do not want to live in a country where corruption rules and where there is no justice," said world heavyweight boxing champion-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged Yanukovich in a phone call on Sunday to seek a dialogue with his opponents and to respect civil freedoms, the EU executive said. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will visit Kiev this week to help seek a way out of the crisis, it said.

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Tags:  US  Ukraine  protests  Yanukovich  


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