Hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Ukraine’s capital on Sunday, toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and blockading key government buildings in an escalating standoff with the president over the future of the country.
The biggest demonstration in the former Soviet republic since Ukraine’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004 led the government to fire back. It announced an investigation of opposition leaders for an alleged attempt to seize power and warned the demonstrators they could face criminal charges.
The West pressed for a peaceful settlement.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flooded the center of Kiev, the capital, to demand President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster after he ditched ties with the European Union in favor of Russia and sent police to break up an earlier protest in the nearly three-week standoff.
“Ukraine is tired of Yanukovych. We need new rules. We need to completely change those in power,” said protester Kostyantyn Meselyuk, 42. “Europe can help us.”