Kiev: The Ukrainian opposition today hopes to muster tens of thousands of demonstrators and give new momentum to demands for President Viktor Yanukovych to step down amid a row over ties with the European Union.
Three main opposition parties said they were establishing "a national resistance task force" after riot police brutally dispersed a rally of opposition supporters and wounded several dozen yesterday.
The rally was broken up by baton-wielding police who attacked about 1,000 protesters on Independence Square in the capital Kiev yesterday in the early hours.
About 10,000 people had gathered in central Kiev on Friday night calling for Yanukovych`s dismissal after the president refused to sign a key political and free trade agreement with the EU.
The opposition called for a new protest in a central Kiev park after police surrounded Independence Square with metal barriers.
"We can and should remove these authorities," world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, the leader of the UDAR (Punch) party, told about 10,000 supporters yesterday, announcing the new protest.
"We should come out and show that we will not allow them to humiliate us, we will stand up for our rights," he told the crowd nearly a week after mass protests broke out across Ukraine following the authorities` decision to scrap the EU deal that would have set the ex-Soviet nation on a path to European integration. The European Union has accused Kiev`s old master Moscow of pressuring Ukraine, which is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, to walk away from the deal.
Current EU chair Lithuania yesterday said the use of force was "reprehensible" and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele called for a probe.
"Violence and intimidation should have no place in today`s Ukraine," added US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Amnesty International called on the Ukranian authorities to live up to their obligations to protect human rights.
Yanukovych said in a statement yesterday he was "deeply outraged" by the use of force against the protesters and vowed that those responsible would be punished.
Opposition protesters massed yesterday outside an ancient, golden-domed church where several hundred demonstrators, many of them out-of-towners, had received sanctuary earlier in the day.