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Ukrainian Catholics have protested against the Government’s refusal to sign the planned association agreement between Ukraine and the EU and called for a renewal of talks with Brussels.
“The national interests of Ukraine are in its entry into the European space. We call on the president and the Ukrainian Government to urgently review the decision and re-engage with European diplomats in order to sign the carefully prepared agreement,” wrote the professors and students of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Kiev in their open letter.
After months of promising to sign a long-awaited political and trade accord with the EU, the Ukrainian Government announced that it was halting those plans and would focus on restoring ties with Russia instead. The move has been deemed a victory for Moscow, which has used threats and sanctions to keep Ukraine in its orbit.
Most of the leaders of Christian Churches in Ukraine repeatedly expressed support for closer ties with the EU, and at least 50,000 pro-European activists also protested on Kiev's main square on Sunday. The demonstrations were the biggest the country has seen since the 2004 Orange Revolution.
Meanwhile Pope Francis recalled the 80th anniversary of the Ukrainian “holodomor” last week, briefly joining Ukrainian Catholic pilgrims, led by Kiev Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who came to the Vatican on the anniversary of the famine that was deliberately engineered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and killed millions of Ukrainians in 1932-33.
Stalin was attempting to force peasants to join collective farms. Historians say at least 3 million people died of hunger in less than a year, with some estimates putting the death toll at up to 10 million. Ukraine's parliament has labeled the famine as genocide.