John McCain in Kiev: “Ukraine will improve Europe”

Opposition to the government says that the union with Russia would have effectively reconstituted the Soviet Union. They remain suspicious that Yanukovych intends to agree with the customs union when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

The diplomatic tug of war and conflicting statements only worked to reinvigorate the spirits of 200,000 protesters, who rallied daily for over three weeks.

“We are here to join the revolution,” said Lyudmila Kostyantynivna, a retired woman from the city of Cherkasy, three hours south of Kiev. Dancing in front of the crowd near the stage while performing a musical act, he said he had followed the coverage of protests on the few television channels that showed him in the past few weeks, but decided to go out this weekend after encouraging his friends, who were with her.

“It’s not just for young people, but also for us,” he said. “We have a criminal for a president and a government that takes, takes, takes and leaves us – the people – with nothing.”

At noon, Kiev’s Independence Square was teeming with people from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the eastern industrial city of Luhansk. They exited the subway exits and poured onto the main avenue of the city, Khreschatyk, singing: “Out with the gang!” and “Glory to Ukraine!”

Led by opposition leaders, the crowd, waving EU and Ukrainian flags, sang the country’s anthem.

Igor Rudenko, a 25-year-old businessman, said he wanted the government to sign the association agreement with the EU and not seek closer ties with Russia.

“We had a very unstable political and economic situation, made worse by not signing the association agreement,” he said. “So I’m here to ask for our country to be brought to the EU.”

“The influence of the EU can make our country better, more confident and more competitive in the world economy.”

His words were echoed by John McCain, the American senator, who arrived in Kiev on Saturday to support anti-government protesters.

“Throughout Ukraine, America is with you,” he invited the cheering crowd on Independence Square.

“The free world is with you, America is with you, I am with you. Ukraine will improve Europe and Europe will improve Ukraine. ”

A much smaller demonstration of government supporters, which numbered around 15,000 people, was taking place about a mile away in Kiev’s Mariinsky Park. Dozens of riot police officers separated the two groups.

And despite Fuele’s comments, the protesters had a glimmer of hope from Carl Bildt, Swedish foreign minister and strong supporter of Ukraine’s integration.

“The door is open for Ukraine to sign an association and free trade agreement with the EU,” he tweeted. “It’s ready. Anytime.”

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