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Ukraine Suspends EU Deal, Protesters Fill Kyiv's Independence Square

Ukrainians protest in support of EU integration in Kyiv. November 21, 2013. Photo by Instagram user zenantipop. Used with permission

Ukrainians protest in support of EU integration in Kyiv, November 21, 2013. Photo by Instagram user zenantipop; used with permission.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Ukraine's capital, hours after their government pulled away from a historic European Union (EU) partnership deal that would help the former Soviet country integrate further in to Europe and warm up to the West.

The move comes after Russia offered Kiev loans and imposed painful restrictions on some Ukraine exports, which were interpreted as aggressive measures to derail the EU deal. 

On November 21, 2013, the Ukrainian government officially announced that it would suspend preparations for the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, which was expected to be signed next week. Soon after the news broke, opposition politicians called on citizens to join in a protest against this decision, scheduled for Sunday, November 24.

However, journalists, activists and other citizens on the Internet immediately began to spread invitations for people to come to Kyiv's main square on the very evening of November 21. Sometime after 10 pm, people began to gather on Maidan Nezaleshnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv to protest the government's decision and demonstrate their support for Ukraine's European integration. The protest has been dubbed #євромайдан (#euromaidan or #eurosquare) by protesters on social media sites.

Taras Demchuk, a blogger from Kyiv, tweeted [uk]:

[I am] thinking of going to #євромайдан, who knows if it changes anything, but [we] should not stay silent anymore

Yana Suporovska, a Ukrainian television reporter, explained in one quick tweet [uk] that this, to many Ukrainians, was one bad decision too many by their government:

For the first time in years I genuinely want to go to #євромайдан. And I will.

Oleksandr Arhat, another journalist from Kyiv, reported [uk] when he arrived to the venue of the protest:

I came to #Євромайдан. @GrishynUA @OlhaSnitsarchuk @nerodyk @ja_olga @sodel_vlad are all here, and a bunch of other people)

User @Roman2the_world on Twitter said:

EU officials were quick to blame Russia for Ukraine's decision on Twitter. The European commissioner for enlargement, tweeted:

Carl Bildt Sweden's Foreign Minister point-blank blamed Russia: 

Russia wants Ukraine to join its own customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, which it sees as a potential rival to the EU.

Even those who disagree with EU integration, like Dmitri Pavlenko from the Belgorod region of Russia, were humorous about what they had to say [ru]:

How about #майдан [a protest] in support of #ТаможенныйСоюз [Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia] instead? #ЕС [EU] go away! Shame on despicable henchmen of Washington and Brussels!

In the meantime, the number of people on Maidan has reached a thousand [uk]. Soon enough, UStream user КПІ-live set up a live online broadcast of the protest. At the time of writing this post, the number of users watching the broadcast reached about 10,000 viewers.

Twitter user @kraft99 wonders [ru]:

Looks like in #Украина [Ukraine] a Twitter revolution is about to begin #Майдан #Євромайдан #UA #Ukraine #Украіна #Евроинтеграция #twitter

Many have noted that this protest comes exactly on the eve of the 9th anniversary of the Orange Revolution, a series of protests that took place in Ukraine in 2004.

According to on-going online comments and conversations, it appears the protesters plan to stay the night and hold their ground. For the latest developments on the protests follow Maidanua.Org [uk] or the hashtags #євромайдан and #euromaidan on Twitter and Facebook.

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