KIEV, Ukraine - About 20,000 people protested in Ukraine's capital on Sunday, maintaining more than a month of rallies opposing the government's decision to shelve a key deal with the European Union.
But the turnout on a clear, cold day was markedly lower than at previous rallies, which had attracted hundreds of thousands.
As with other rallies, Sunday's event opened with speeches by the country's spiritual leaders, including Christian priests, a rabbi, and a mufti who called for national unity and stressed the protesters' right to have the government they want.
Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the opposition national party Svoboda, notorious for his racist rhetoric, emphasized that Ukrainians in the west and the east should unite to fight for their rights.
"We are all Ukrainians and want our fair demands to be met," he said in his speech.
Most demonstrators in Kiev come from western and central regions, while many people in the mostly Russian-speaking east and the south back closer ties with Moscow.
The demonstrations were sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych's decision last month to spike the EU deal in favor of closer ties with Russia. The move angered many Ukrainians, who hoped that closer ties with the EU would help end centuries of Russia's domination.
The protests were galvanized by a brutal police crackdown on Nov. 30, but Yanukovych's government has since limited the use of force in an apparent hope that protests will fizzle out.
Yanukovych also has sought to assuage the protesters' anger by releasing some of the jailed opposition activists and suspending several top officials regarding the crackdown, but thousands of demonstrators have maintained their vigil and the crowd has swelled over weekends.
After several attempts to clear the protesters by force drew condemnation from the West, the president now appears set on waiting them out.
Kiev's Independence square, or the Maidan, was filled with wood fire smoke on Sunday coming from field kitchens and stoves that protesters installed in the tents they have been living at for weeks. The city's main street, Khreshchatyk, has been barricaded with wooden planks, sacks filled with snow, and car tires since November's crackdown.
Many of the demonstrators Sunday wore ribbons in the colors of the Ukrainian national flag and remained confident that their campaign will win.
Opposition leaders continued to demand the cabinet's resignation, but they have toned down demands for Yanukovych's ouster.
Activists, however, have not. Thousands drove and cycled to Yanukovych's country residence outside Kiev on Sunday. The protesters chanted "Down with Yanukovych!" and urged authorities to find and punish the people who brutally attacked prominent civic activist and journalist Tetyana Chernovil last week.