Ukrainian demonstrators gathered in the streets of Kiev Saturday to protest President Viktor Yanukovich's [official website; BBC profile] decision to abandon the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement [EU backgrounder], a planned trade pact with the EU. According to media reports the Berkut riot police responded to the demonstration with force to disperse the crowd. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] has called [press release] for a "prompt, effective and independent investigation" into the allegations of "abusive use of force" by the officers. According to reports Yanukovich felt pressure to abandon the trade pact from Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive], who threatened trade sanctions should the Ukraine back the EU's trade plan. Ukraine is currently facing a serious economic crisis.
Ukraine's imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko announced [JURIST report] in November that she would go on a hunger strike to show her support for demonstrators who have been protesting Ukraine's decision to abandon the planned EU trade pact. In April AI called on the Ukrainian government to investigate police abuses [JURIST report] and strengthen mechanisms to hold police accountable for brutality and torture. AI alleged that reports of police abuse and torture have been widely ignored. In September Yanukovych signed a law [JURIST report] to improve prison conditions and take one step closer to integration with the EU. This law was required to allow the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, a step by the Ukrainian government toward economic and political integration with the EU.