By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– As many as half a million Ukrainians have participated in a pro-European Union rally in the capital Kyiv, where many toppled the statue of late Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and called for the president to step down.
Sunday’s rally was the biggest demonstration since the pro-freedom Orange Revolution in 2004.
Protesters demanded the resignation of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and of the entire government, for refusing to sign the European Union Association Agreement.
The president wants closer ties with neighbouring Russia, leading to fears among demonstrators that Ukraine will become part of a Russian-led Customs Union.
Protesters could be seen destroying the statue of Lenin, whom they view as a symbol of Russian domination. “The fact that this statue was still standing in Kiev, 22 years after our independence, means that we never fully overcame Russian occupation”, a protester said.
He added that destroying the Lenin statue “is a crucial step to end the occupation”, and that Ukraine would “change after this symbol is gone.”
Yet not everyone agrees with the opposition. Many also gathered at a smaller demonstration supporting the government. “We cannot allow this country to end up in chaos and to be robbed of its resources”, a speaker told the pro-government crowd. “We have to win and we will win”, he said.
For now, the opposition continues with its pro-EU protests. “Long live Ukraine”, they shouted, showing the head of Lenin’s statue to en enthusiastic crowd.