Protesters set up barricades outside government buildings
Lenin statue toppled Sunday, pounded with hammers
Protesters are seeking the government's ouster
Kiev suspended talks with the European Union last month
By Marie-Louise Gumuchian. CNN. and journalist Victoria Butenko
KIEV, Ukraine (CNN) -- Faced with freezing temperatures as the bitter cold sets in, the protesters who have poured onto the streets of the Ukrainian capital burn tires and sip hot soup and tea to stay warm.
Some play soccer or strum guitars as they camp out in tents. The crowds often swell in the evenings as people leave work and join the rallies.
The protesters say they are determined not to leave until they oust the government.
About 100,000 people poured onto the streets Sunday to pile pressure on President Viktor Yanukovich. A group toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin, with some pounding the monument with hammers, leaving pieces scattered on the ground.
On Monday, the demonstrators were still out in force, braving snow, waving flags, chanting. Many were packed into the central Independence Square, now transformed into a tent village, sustained by donations.
Others barricaded the Cabinet's headquarters and other key public buildings, erecting tents and parking cars on roads in the government district.
"They have cut traffic off, they are continuing to protest around the government buildings," said Kiev resident Sergey Vysotsky, 24. "They are continuing the so-called government blockade."
The protests began when Ukraine refused a deal with the European Union, opting instead for closer ties with neighbor Russia.
It's magnified into a populist movement, the biggest the Eastern European country has seen since the so-called Orange Revolution toppled the government nine years ago.
Opposition leaders failed to force the government's resignation in a vote of no confidence in parliament last week. They are counting on their supporters in the streets to have better success.
"The government and opposition should hold talks to solve this. It has gone too far, it might result in conflict," Vysotsky said. "We do not want a conflict."
More police were in the city Monday, and underground metro service was not stopping at stations near the central square.
Police said they were investigating but did not know who had toppled the Lenin statue. Ukraine's government news agency said a lawmaker with the nationalist Svoboda party claimed responsibility.
"This is the end of Soviet occupation," the party's Twitter account said. "End of (the) regime of shame and humiliation."
Numerous statues of Lenin, one of the leaders of the 1917 Russian Revolution, have been removed from Kiev in recent years. The Communist Party decried the attack on the statue.
As the capital is convulsed by the protests, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would travel to Kiev on Tuesday to try to "bring some solutions to the very tense situation that Ukraine is living today."
Speaking at a conference in Milan, Italy, Barroso said he had spoken with Yanukovich by phone Sunday.
"I asked him to show restraint in the face of these recent developments, to not use force against the people that are demonstrating peacefully, to respect fully the freedoms that are so important for all of us in Europe," he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Yanukovich on Sunday and told the Ukrainian President that he had "grave concern" about the situation, urging authorities not to resort to violence. Yanukovich told the U.N. chief that "consultations would be initiated to defuse the situation," the United Nations said.
East vs. west
The protesters are angry that the government decided last month to ditch a landmark pact with the European Union in favor of closer economic cooperation with Moscow.
They say an EU agreement would have opened borders to trade and set the stage for modernization and inclusion. They accuse Yanukovich, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, of preparing to take the country into a Moscow-led customs union.
The tensions tugging at the country are felt across the nation -- Ukraine is split between pro-European regions in the west of the country and a more Russia-oriented east.
One of the main reasons for Yanukovich's decision to backpedal on the EU talks is Russia's threat of trade sanctions and gas bill hikes. Yanukovich was also under pressure by the EU to free his jailed chief political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko.
The Orange Revolution that swept him from office in 2004, when he was Prime Minister, also swept Tymoshenko to power.
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 after being convicted of abuse of authority over a natural gas deal negotiated with Russia in 2009. The United States and Europe see the punishment as politically motivated.
Many of the protesters have carried her picture in Independence Square during the rallies.
Journalist Victoria Butenko reported from Kiev, and CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian reported and wrote from London.
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