Putin: Ukraine protests seek to shake legitimate rulers

Reuters

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said protests in Ukraine against its decision to abandon a European Union integration pact were an attempt to shake its legitimate rulers.

"This reminds me more of a pogrom than a revolution," Putin told reporters on a visit to Armenia.

Demonstrations in Kiev at the weekend, which saw violent clashes with police, drew as many as 350,000 protesters rallying against President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to abandon a trade pact with the European Union and seek closer economic ties with Russia.

Ukrainian protesters blockaded the main government building on Monday, trying to bring down Yanukovich with a general strike in a nation where many people want to join the European mainstream and escape Moscow's orbit.

"This is not a revolution but a very well prepared protest that in my view wasn't prepared for today but ... for the (Ukrainian) presidential election campaign in March 2015," Putin said.

"This is an attempt to shake the current and - I want to emphasize - legitimate authorities in the country," he said.

Putin said to all appearances the protesters were "very well prepared and trained militant groups" - hinting that outside actors had been involved in training the demonstrators, an accusation he made against participants in Ukraine's "Orange revolution" which overturned a stolen election nine years ago.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Janet Lawrence)

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