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Ukrainian police pull back after failing to end protest in Kiev

Ukrainian police pull back after failing to end protest in Kiev
Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine, addresses the 67th session of the General Assembly at the United Nations on September 26, 2012 in New York City. UPI/Monika Graff | License Photo

KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Security forces fell back Wednesday from Kiev's main square and government buildings after failing to end protests that plunged Ukraine into political chaos.

Riot police had worked through makeshift barricades early Wednesday but were met by hundreds of protesters gathered to defend the encampment, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Although there were scuffles, security forces didn't resort to the violence seen during a brutal crackdown Nov. 30 that emboldened protesters.

A statement posted on the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's website soon after the police began to leave said that the protest would be allowed to go on.

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"I want to calm everyone down. There will be no dispersal of [protesters from the square]. Nobody is infringing upon the people's right to a peaceful protest. However, the rights and legitimate interests of other people cannot be ignored. The capital city's normal functioning cannot be disrupted," Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko said in the statement.

The attempted crackdown came hours after top Western diplomats met President Viktor Yanukovych Tuesday to call for a non-violent resolution to the crisis.

The police operation was met with criticism by European Union foreign policy leader Catherine Ashton and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who expressed "disgust" with the government's actions, Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty reported. Ashton said she was "saddened" by the events

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The weeks-long demonstrations began after Yanukovych's U-turn on signing trade and political agreements with the European Union, saying the deals would hurt Ukraine's economy. Instead, he called for closer ties with Russia, tripping the largest demonstrations in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution, with calls for Yanukovych to step down and his government to resign.

The overnight crackdown followed conciliatory gestures by Yanukovych on Tuesday. He had met with three former presidents for "roundtable" talks and then held talks with Ashton, promising to renew discussions with the European Union on an association agreement.

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