Ukraine's opposition leaders told hundreds of thousands of pro-Europe protesters at a rally on Sunday to pressure President Viktor Yanukovich to sack his own government and drop plans for closer ties with Russia.
The protesters, gathered on Kiev's Independence Square, are furious with the Yanukovich government for its decision to ditch a landmark pact with the European Union in favor of a trade deal with Moscow, Ukraine's Soviet-era overlord.
Angry crowds that brandished the flag of the nationalist Freedom Party toppled the statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, police said, protesting the country's strengthening ties with Moscow.
Sunday's rally escalates a weeks-long confrontation between authorities and protesters that has raised fears of political and economic instability in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.
"This is a decisive moment when all Ukrainians have gathered here because they do not want to live in a country where corruption rules and where there is no justice," said world heavyweight boxing champion-turned-opposition-politician Vitaly Klitschko.