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Ukrainians renew tent protest

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian students have set up new protest tents days after police ripped down a tent camp in Kiev.

Police dismantled the 52 tents on Thursday and arrested around 40 protesters demanding that President Leonid Kuchma resign over his alleged involvement in the death of an outspoken reporter.

Students built five new tents in a park that is home to a statue of Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century poet who is a symbol of resistance against oppression in Ukraine.

Kuchma is due to visit the park on Friday to lay flowers at the statue, an annual ritual in Ukraine's celebrations of its independence from the former Soviet Union.

"We are planning a bigger rally on March 9 and the tents will help us prevent President Kuchma from coming to a place which is sacred for every Ukrainian," said Yury Lutsenko, one of the leaders of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement.

Monday's protest is the latest in a string that have taken place in recent months, each calling for Kuchma's removal over accusations of corruption and a scandal over the death of reporter Heorhiy Gongadze.

Kuchma's involvement in Gongadze's death was alleged when opposition politicians published tapes in which a voice similar to his was heard giving orders to "deal with" the reporter.

Prosecutors initially dismissed the tapes as fakes but Kuchma later acknowledged it was his voice but said the tapes, secretly recorded in his office, had been tampered with.

The Gongadze case has developed into the biggest political scandal in Ukraine in a decade.

The United States and the European Union have expressed concern about the case, freedom of the press and human rights in Ukraine.

"If the police destroy the new tent city, it will mean a new violation of the constitution," said Volodymyr Chemeris, the coordinator of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement.

"We will announce a hunger strike and the students will remain here."

Reuters contributed to this report.



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