Riot police poured into Kiev's Independence Square early on Wednesday (December 11), confronting opposition leaders and protesters demonstrating against a government decision to rebuild trade ties with Russia rather than move closer to the European Union.

Black-helmeted police entered the square in the heart of the snowbound capital where the demonstrators have been camping out for the past 10 days, tearing down barricades erected by the protesters.

Clashes broke out as police tried to detain some of the protesters. On one of the main streets leading into the square, a large group of protesters in hard hats, appointed to protect the demonstrators, held back a separate unit of riot police.

Some protesters held mobile phones in the air like candles and sang the national anthem, while church bells rang out from a cathedral about 2 km (about 1 mile) away as in times of danger centuries ago.

The police move came after President Viktor Yanukovich on Tuesday (December 10) defended his decision to walk away from signing a major trade pact with the EU on November 21 and instead revive economic links with Russia, Ukraine's former Soviet master.

They made no attempt to take down the encampment of tents on the square.

But clashes between the protesters' security guards and police nonetheless broke out as police tried to make arrests. Interfax news agency said some people had been hurt but it could not give an exact tally.

Presented by Adam Justice

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