Massive demonstrations in Ukraine aimed at paralyzing the government and stripping power from the president continued to surge Monday morning following protests over the weekend involving millions of citizens.
The civil unrest stems from President Viktor Yanukovych's unwillingness to sign new accords that would strengthen Ukraine's political and free-trade relationships with the European Union. Roughly a million demonstrators poured into the streets of the capital Kiev Sunday carrying nearby Christmas decorations and police blockades, reports The New York Times.
Thousands remained in the central Independence Square, which the government has largely ceded to the protesters, while thousands of others marched to the Cabinet Ministry building to chant for the ouster of senior officials, blocking many of them from entering the building.
"Our goal is to oust the authorities through strikes," one protester, 35-year-old Serhiy Korchinsky, told The Associated Press. "The government will be paralyzed until Yanukovych and Azarov resign."
"We want Europe and freedom," said another protester, Mykola Sapronov, 62, to the Telegraph. "The leaders must resign."
The recent protests have been largely peaceful, except for police clashes on Sunday in which they fired tear gas at demonstrators trying to storm Yanukovych's office. A violent police response to protests early Saturday fueled the current unrest.
The State Department issued a statement Saturday condemning the government authorities' violent response against the protesters, and urged officials to allow Ukranians to protest peacefully.
"We call on the Government of Ukraine to foster a positive environment for civil society and to protect the rights of all Ukrainians to express their views on their country's future in a constructive and peaceful manner in Kyiv and in other parts of the country," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in the statement. "Violence and intimidation should have no place in today's Ukraine."
The AP reports that three lawmakers from Yanukovych's Party of Regions have resigned in the wake of the protests. Some members of the opposition party have called for a no-confidence vote against the cabinet of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
Some local leaders in the western portions of Ukraine, which supports greater ties with the EU, have advocated for these federal protests. The mayor of Lviv says he would call on police to take off their uniforms and fight on behalf of local protesters if the federal government were to send reinforcements there, the AP reports.
These unconfirmed tweets reportedly depict the ongoing protests:
— Leonid Ragozin (@leonidragozin) December 2, 2013
Kiev's Soviet era Cabinet of Ministers building surrounded on all sides by protesters this morning pic.twitter.com/O0SflTLBGT
— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) December 2, 2013
— Andrea Alfano (@laccio) December 2, 2013
PHOTO: A protester with a chain clashes with police during a mass rally of the opposition in Kiev, Ukraine pic.twitter.com/HOpGoHbAR3
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) December 1, 2013