Student protests shut down Ukrainian central bank

The demonstrators who have laid siege to public buildings in this rattled capital expanded their protest overnight, blockading the central bank on Wednesday and setting up tents and lighting bonfires on the sidewalk outside.   Protest leaders had vowed to surround additional government buildings after the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday defeated a measure calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government.

The failure of the no-confidence vote pushed the battle for the future of Ukraine back onto the streets, where protests began over the weekend. Demonstrators allied with opposition leaders say they will not relent until they have succeeded in removing the government, including President Viktor F. Yanukovich.

But the protesters’ overnight goal of blockading the building of the presidential administration had not been accomplished by Wednesday morning. They did advance their sphere of control about 500 yards up a side street leading to Independence Square, which they have occupied, and erected a barricade near one entrance to the administration building.

There, on a cold, overcast morning, a crowd waved flags and looked across around 100 yards of empty pavement at a dense line of riot police guarding the administration building.

The central bank seemed unprotected on the outside on Wednesday. Smoke from wood fires in drums drifted over the light blue neo-Classical style building, while men in jackets and stocking caps stood in front of the main doors.

Asked if the bank was open, one replied, “No, they’re redoing the books..” Another added, “They’ve gone to Bermuda to be with their money.”

While it remains unclear how long the protest leaders can maintain enthusiasm as winter deepens, and their main goal of compelling Mr. Yanukovich to resign appears largely unrealistic, the momentum seems to be on their side for now.

Since the start of demonstrations on Nov. 22, many protesters, especially students, have been skeptical that elected officials would answer their demands.

A smaller counterprotest by supporters of Mr. Yanukovich appeared in a park near Independence Square on Wednesday but drew far fewer people.

Protesters planning to attend antigovernment rallies arrived overnight from western Ukraine. A few dozen dropped off bags at the headquarters of the Rukh political party, one of the many makeshift hotels for protesters, and were drinking tea there Wednesday morning.

One young man, Ivan Grem, said that he had seen buses on the highway from western Ukraine overnight, ferrying people to the protest. This could not be independently confirmed.

Leaders of the protest movement, a loose coalition of the three main political opposition parties, civic organizations and student groups, said they were digging in for a long fight. The demonstrators have already blockaded the Cabinet Ministry and seized City Hall and two other buildings near the square.

In a development likely to further anger protesters, prosecutors in Kiev charged nine demonstrators with organizing mass unrest related to a violent confrontation between police and activists over the weekend. That conflict left many injured on both sides.

In a speech to Parliament before Tuesday’s no-confidence vote, Mr. Azarov, the prime minister, had once again apologized for the police role in the violence and said that an investigation was underway that would hold those responsible accountable. But charging demonstrators, rather than the police, will hardly tamp down tempers.

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