Kiev: Riot police deployed near protest sites

JIM HEINTZ YURAS KARMANAU Published:

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Dozens of riot police in full gear positioned themselves outside the Kiev city administration on Monday, the deadline a court has set for the protesters occupying the building to leave.

Opposition activists have asked protesters to leave the city building and another building they had occupied to avoid clashes, but the police presence stoked fears that the government planned to disperse the mass protests that have gripped Ukraine's capital for weeks.

The policemen, wearing helmets and holding shields, formed a chain across Kiev's main street outside the city building.

President Viktor Yanukovych has faced weeks of protests after shelving a treaty with the European Union last month to focus on ties with Moscow.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for Yanukovych's ouster poured into the streets of Kiev, toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and blockading government buildings in the escalating standoff with the president over the future of the country.

The government has demanded that the protests disperse and threatened harsh measures.