Ukraine's Yanukovich defends policy, Tymoshenko declares hunger strike

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2013 12:19 PM
Ukraine's Yanukovich defends policy, Tymoshenko declares hunger strike

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich acted on Monday to defuse pro-Europe street protests, saying a decision to suspend moves towards a trade pact with the European Union had been difficult and vowing to bring "European standards" to the country.

In a television address, as about 4,000 demonstrators continued to protest the government's move last Thursday, Yanukovich said the decision had been forced by economic necessity.

"Today I would like to underline this: there is no alternative to the creation of a society of European standards in Ukraine and my policies on this path always have been, and will continue to be, consistent," he said.

Yanukovich's government stunned European leaders last Thursday by announcing it was suspending preparations for the signing in Vilnius and said it would revive dialogue instead with Russia which had objected to the deal.

The government's announcement triggered pro-Europe demonstrations on the streets of the capital Kiev and isolated clashes with police.

Even as he made his TV address, jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, his fiercest opponent who was imprisoned in 2011 after a trial seen by Western governments as political, declared an 'unlimited hunger strike" to push him to sign.

"As a sign of unity with you, I declare an unlimited hunger strike with the demand to Yanukovich to sign the association agreement," the 52-year-old Tymoshenko in a message to the protesters read out in Kiev by her defense lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko.

(Reporting by Natalya Zinets; Writing By Richard Balmforth; editing by Ralph Boulton)