KIEV, Ukraine – Thousands of people demonstrated in central Kiev for a fifth straight day on Wednesday to protest the Ukrainian government's decision not to sign an agreement with the European Union but to restore ties with Russia instead.
About 5,000 people were on Independence Square, listening to music and singing, several hours before the evening's demonstration was scheduled to start. Tuesday night's protests drew an estimated 7,000 people.
Earlier Wednesday, a couple of thousand demonstrators rallied outside the Ukrainian government building to call for the release of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The EU had made the release of Tymoshenko, the political rival of President Viktor Yanukovych, a condition for signing the political and trade agreement at a summit that begins Thursday in Vilnius, Lithuania. Yanukovych still plans to attend the EU summit.
The freeing of Tymoshenko "would be a sign, a symbol, that Ukraine is truly ready for change and is ready to become part of Europe," Igor Nesterovich, 42, who had come to the capital from the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk to take part in the protests.
Yanukovych's government has explained its decision to back away from efforts to integrate with the European Union by saying that Ukraine could not afford to sacrifice trade with Russia.
The protesters had been split between two central squares, but on Wednesday afternoon those on Europe Square took down their tents and moved to Independence Square, the center of the 2004 Orange Revolution.
Tymoshenko was the heroine of the peaceful Orange Revolution, which overturned Yanukovych's victory in a rigged presidential election. She narrowly lost to Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election, and the next year was sent to prison in a case widely seen as political retribution.