Ukraine's opposition leaders today denounced a US$15 billion bailout package from Russia and an offer of cheaper gas as a sell-out of the national interest by President Viktor Yanukovich, vowing to block its passage through parliament.
Within two hours of the deal being announced in Moscow, the three opposition leaders urged crowds on Kiev's Independence Square to keep rallying against Yanukovich's U-turn in policy away from the European Union towards Russia.
"He has given up Ukraine's national interests, given up independence and prospects for a better life for every Ukrainian," Vitaly Klitschko, one of the three leaders, told cheering crowds on the square.
"I know of only one place where you can find free cheese - and that's in a mouse-trap," said Arseny Yatsenyuk, a former economy minister and another opposition leader.
"If Yanukovich has got US$15 billion free of charge and got a reduction in gas to the sum of another US$5 billion - all in all US$20 billion - then we want to hear what he has given away."
Yatsenyuk said opposition deputies would block parliamentary proceedings, as they have done several times in the past, to prevent the deal with Russia going through. "Not a single document which contradicts European integration will pass the procedure of voting in parliament," he said.
Klitschko, a world heavyweight boxing champion and a contender for the presidency, called for early elections, adding: "He (Yanukovich) is my personal opponent. I am challenging him in the ring."
Up to 50,000 people gathered on the square, the heart of mass demonstrations that have gripped Kiev for nearly a month, to hear the opposition leaders speak
Protesters exclaimed "Glory to Ukraine!" and demanded the resignation of Yanukovich and his government, chanting "No!" when opposition leaders asked if they agreed to the Moscow deals.