Ukrainian demonstrators have launched a general strike in protest against the government’s refusal to sign a political and trade agreement with the European Union.
Some 1,000 protesters blocked off the government’s main headquarters early Monday in the capital, Kiev, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet.
The demonstrators also barricaded the streets with objects, including garbage bins to stop workers from getting inside.
The closure came after an opposition call for a nationwide strike over President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a trade deal, also known as the Association Agreement, with the European Union.
Ukraine has been the scene of violent clashes between police and demonstrators in recent days, with the latest on Sunday, when some 100 police officers and nearly 50 protesters were injured in clashes as demonstrators stormed the office of Kiev’s mayor.
On November 29, the EU signed an Association Agreement with Moldova and Georgia at the end of the third Eastern Partnership Summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
Ukraine refrained from signing the agreement after the EU leaders said that Kiev had to allow imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to travel overseas for medical treatment.
European Union leaders have blamed Russia for Ukraine’s refusal to sign the trade deal with the bloc, saying they will not allow Moscow to “veto” deals in Eastern Europe.
Yanukovych has defended his decision to scrap the signing, saying that Kiev needs economic and financial support from the 28-nation bloc before it could sign the accord.
The Ukrainian president, however, said on Friday, “I confirm Ukraine’s intention to sign the Association Agreement in the near future.”