Authorities offered a pretext for clearing the square: Protesters were obstructing the installation of a Christmas tree.
Opposition leaders called for a major protest Sunday in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, and announced plans for a national strike as the first step toward forcing early elections to unseat the government.
At the heart of the growing opposition to Yanukovich’s government was his decision to not sign an association agreement with the
Late Saturday, Yanukovich expressed indignation over the police violence early in the day, posting a statement on his website. "I denounce the actions which led to physical confrontation and human suffering," he said. "Those who provoked … the conflict in [Independence] Square will be punished."
Shortly afterward, hundreds of motorists jammed the downtown area around Independence Square, still protected by riot police. They stopped their cars, honking and waving national and EU flags out the windows.
On Saturday morning, protesters took their rally to another site, gathering on the grounds of St. Michael's Cathedral a mile from Independence Square. By nightfall, thousands of protesters had gathered at St. Michael Square in front of the cathedral. They were brandishing yellow and blue Ukrainian flags and blue EU banners and chanting "Down with the gang!"
Protesters who had witnessed the clearing of Independence Square said police were swinging their clubs while shouting, "Did you want Europe? Go ahead and get it!"
Nelli Didenko, a 23-year-old postgraduate student in Russian literature, was kicked in the leg and fell. She was helped to her feet by another protester who she said saved her but got club blows to his back in turn.
"As I was trying to get out of the square badly limping for the excruciating pain in my leg, a police officer shouted right in my ear: 'Run!'" she recalled. "I turned to look at him and he was a huge man about my dad's age. I said, 'I can't. My leg is hurt.' He laughed and as I turned back, he prodded me in the back several times with his club!"
Opposition leaders denied the charge, saying they rushed to the square after the news broke of the police action and offered legal assistance to those who were detained.