Continued from page 1

The Obama administration also said Ms. Nuland would return to Kiev on Tuesday as part of a U.S. and Western European attempt to help defuse the ongoing tensions. The European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, is also slated to arrive in the city Tuesday.

Away from the international posturing, Ukraine’s struggling economy hangs like a thick cloud over the political turmoil. And the nation’s current recession and ballooning budget may help to explain the Yanukovich government’s sudden willingness last month to turn East rather than continue pursuing closer ties with the European Union, where economic growth also has been stagnant in recent years.

The Financial Times noted last week that even as protesters filled the streets of Kiev calling for his resignation, Mr. Yanukovich traveled to China in hopes of securing billion-dollar loans and investments that could shore up the nation’s ailing economy.

Cracking down on protests

That move appeared to further anger opposition leaders who oversaw the cramming of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into Kiev on Sunday.

The rally was not only the biggest held over the past three weeks, but it also represented the most intense and massive political expression in the Ukrainian capital since the Orange Revolution brought democracy to the former Soviet Republic nearly a decade ago.

The protesters this time around are angered not only by the Yanukovich government’s thwarting of their desire to move closer to the West, but by the government’s harsh, military-style crackdowns on demonstrators. On two occasions since late last month, club-swinging police have moved in to break up protests.

On Monday, armed police stormed the offices of the Fatherland Party, the lead opposition party. Ostap Semerak, a party member told The Associated Press that troops broke into Fatherland’s offices Monday evening, some climbing in through its windows.

“They are storming us. The images are insane,” he said by telephone.

The troops left after confiscating some computer equipment, he said. An AP reporter later saw broken glass and smashed computers in the offices.

Party member Marina Soroka also said the troops surrounded and blockaded several opposition-minded Ukrainian media outlets, making their and other media websites inaccessible.

The party is headed by imprisoned former prime Yulia Tymoshenko, a long-standing foe of Mr. Yanukovich, and is the largest opposition grouping in the parliament.

Calling for negotiations

It was unclear, meanwhile, whether anger over the raid on the party’s headquarters might jeopardize the possibility of a reconciliation between the Yanukovich government and protesters.

Before news of the raid broke Monday, Mr. Yanukovich was reported to have had accepted a proposal made by three past Ukrainian presidents to sit down with opposition leaders in an attempt to ease tensions.

Story Continues →