Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said late Friday, December 6 that a major economic deal with Russia was imminent as protestors in Kiev geared up for another weekend of protests amid the ongoing political stand-off in the former Soviet nation, according to RIA Novosti.
“We are talking about preparations for a big agreement about strategic partnership with the Russian Federation,” Azarov told journalists, according to a government statement.
Street demonstrations erupted across Ukraine last month after the Cabinet backed off from signing landmark association agreements with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. The Kremlin has been pushing Ukraine to abandon European integration and join a Moscow-led Customs Union.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday in the Russian city of Sochi on the way back from a visit to China.
No details of the meeting were released, but Azarov said that the two presidents discussed a road map for the elimination of trade conflicts, in particular disagreements over gas supplies.
Russia has accused Ukraine of owing billions of dollars in unpaid natural gas bills, while Ukraine maintains that it is obliged to pay a higher price for the fuel than other European countries.
Opposition leaders in Ukraine have warned that a deal with Russia could give impetus to demonstrations.
"If Yanukovich tries to sign anything with Russia about the customs union it will lead to a bigger wave of protests," opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk told journalists Friday, Reuters reported.
There were several hundred protesters present at a tented camp on Kiev’s Independence Square early Saturday morning, a week after riot police used violence to temporarily clear the area. A focal point of the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005, the square has been occupied almost continuously by protesters in recent weeks.
Azarov said Friday that there were a "large quantity of radicals" on the square, and warned protesters to desist in illegal attempts to obstruct the government's work.
Opposition leader and heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klichko said in a statement earlier in the day that if the government used force to clear Independence Square, "the whole country will rise."
Protestors in Kiev have called for a large demonstration on Sunday, dubbed “the March of a Million.”
Last Sunday hundreds of thousands of people flooded central Kiev to call for the resignation of the government, but the day ended in violent clashes with riot police as a mob attempted to storm the presidential administration.