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Thousands protest in Kiev over halted EU trade deal

  |   Dec. 15, 2013 at 10:24 AM
KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Sen. John McCain said Sunday "America stands with" protesters rallying against the Ukrainian president's backing out of a trade deal with the European Union.

Thousands of people gathered Sunday at an opposition-organized rally in Kiev's Maidan Square, which has been occupied by protesters since Dec. 1, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

U.S. Sen. John McCain arrived in Kiev Saturday to meet with opposition leaders and speak at the Sunday rally, dubbed "Euromaidan."

"The destiny you seek lies in Europe. Ukraine will make Europe better and Europe will make Ukraine better. To all Ukrainians, America stands with you," McCain said as the crowd chanted, "Thank you, USA."

"The Free World is with you, America is with you, and I am with you," McCain said.

The Ukrainian government organized an "anti-Maidan" rally Sunday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said. Robert Shlegel, a Russian lawmaker from Russia's ruling United Russia party, invited Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the nationalist leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, to speak at the rally.

"In response to John McCain coming to 'Euromaidan,' Vladimir Zhirinovsky can come to the anti-Maidan [rally]. The world must be in equilibrium," Shlegel said.

Meanwhile, the European Union halted work on the trade agreement after failing to receive a "clear commitment" from Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign it, the BBC reported.

Yanukovych backed out of the deal last month after apparently being pressured by Russia, the BBC said.

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