Ukraine has asked the European Union for €20bn in aid to help support its economy amid widespread political unrest and economic stagnation.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov announced the Ukraine would require the money if it were to sign a trade pact with the EU, which it stunningly pulled out of November.

The decision to exit talks with the EU triggered a groundswell of pro-EU feeling among many Ukrainians that believe their country's future lies with the EU and not Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Azarov's government has been put under pressure by widespread protests centred in the capital Kiev.

Last night scores of riot police took on protestors in the capital, while special forces surrounded a makeshift protestors' camp inthe city's Independence Square.

A statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin was pulled down by an angry crowd and smashed into pieces.

The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton travelled to the country and surveyed the conditions on the ground among protestors.

Swedish economist Anders Aslund, an expert on transitional economies and the post-Soviet world, warned that Ukraine had missed an opportunity by not signing an association agreement with the EU.

The EU has been keen to attract former members of the Eastern Bloc through the Eastern Partnership scheme.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is seen as a politician who represents the eastern part of Ukraine, which is closer both geographically and politically to Russia.