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The opposition also was getting support from Ukraine’s main television channels, which are owned by the country’s wealthiest businessmen. Instead of largely toeing the government line, the channels have begun to give a greater platform to the protesters.

This was a sign that the channels’ owners were unhappy with the government’s refusal to sign the EU deal and pursue better trade ties with Russia instead, said Natalia Ligacheva, head of media watchdog Telekritika.

“They have become more daring and are letting their newsrooms work the way journalists should work,” Ligacheva said.

In Kiev, thousands returned to Independence Square, where several hundred people spent the night in a protest camp that has been cordoned off by barricades made of metal bars and wooden planks.

Hundreds of others held ground inside Kiev city hall, where some protesters slept on the floor, while others lined up to receive hot tea, sandwiches and other food brought in by Kiev residents. Other volunteers sorted through piles of donated warm clothes and medicines.

“You can also fight for freedom and independence by giving out sandwiches,” said Yulia Zhiber, a 21-year-old philology student from Kiev.

Protests have been held daily in Kiev since Yanukovych on Nov. 21 backed away from the EU agreement, which was to have been signed Friday. He justified the decision by saying that Ukraine couldn’t afford to break trade ties with Russia.

Yanukovych was also reluctant to liberate his top rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose imprisonment the EU called political revenge and whose freedom it set as a condition for signing the deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman reaffirmed the willingness of Berlin and Brussels to sign the association agreement.

“It is very impressive to see how many people in Ukraine are ready to stand up for their conviction, for their dream of a Ukraine that shares Europe’s ideas of the rule of law and its values, and seeks closer relations with Europe,” spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

“For the German government, these demonstrations send a very clear message,” he said. “It has to be hoped that … Yanukovych will hear this message.”


Associated Press writers Geir Moulson in Berlin, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.