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Ukraine opposition rally keeps pressure on country's president

KIEV--Ukraine's opposition leaders urged hundreds of thousands of pro-Europe protesters at a rally on Sunday to keep up pressure on President Viktor Yanukovich to sack his government and drop plans for closer ties with Russia.

The protesters, gathered on Kiev's Independence Square, are furious with the Yanukovich government for its decision to ditch a landmark pact with the European Union in favor of a trade deal with Moscow, Ukraine's Soviet-era overlord.

Sunday's rally marks a further escalation in a weeks-long confrontation between authorities and protesters that has raised fears for political and economic stability in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.

“This is a decisive moment when all Ukrainians have gathered here because they do not want to live in a country where corruption rules and where there is no justice,” said world heavyweight boxing champion-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko.

The opposition accuses Yanukovich, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, of preparing to take Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union, which they see as an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union.

“We are on a razor's edge between a final plunge into cruel dictatorship and a return home to the European community,” jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said in an emotional message to the crowd read out by her daughter Yevgenia.

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Ukrainians wearing Cossack costumes and Pro-European Union activists attend a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine on Sunday, Dec. 8.

(AP)

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