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People sing the Ukrainian national anthem during an anti-government rally in Kiev Feb. 9. (DAVID MDZINARISHVILI/REUTERS)
People sing the Ukrainian national anthem during an anti-government rally in Kiev Feb. 9. (DAVID MDZINARISHVILI/REUTERS)

Ukrainian anti-terrorism units placed on high alert Add to ...

Ukraine’s state security service announced Sunday that anti-terrorist units had been placed on high alert due to increased threats against key sites such as airports, stations, pipelines and nuclear plants.

The SBU counterintelligence agency said the measures were “primarily preventative” and made no explicit reference to the mass protests that have been shaking the country since late November.

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But it mentioned “threats of explosions” at strategic transport hubs and energy installations as well as “calls to occupy sites sheltering large stocks of weapons” and the “blockading of government buildings.”

The protesters who have been occupying central Kiev for more than two months to oust President Viktor Yanukovych have seized several state buildings and repeatedly clashed with police.

The SBU statement said the new measures were “only aimed at ensuring public safety and preventing criminal activities with a terrorist goal.”

The agency said “anonymous threats of bomb attacks” had been received but did not go into specifics.

The statement was released after a Ukrainian opposition sympathizer was arrested in Istanbul for attempting to hijack an airliner to Sochi on Friday.

The SBU said the apparently drunk man had demanded that the Boeing 737 be flown to the Olympic resort, where Mr. Yanukovych was holding crisis talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Games’ opening ceremony.

Some 30,000 people turned out for a rally on Kiev’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan, on Sunday, the day the demonstrations usually draw the largest crowds.

Opposition leaders demanded a constitutional reform that would reduce presidential powers and early elections in which they hope to unseat Mr. Yanukovych. The measures are currently being discussed in the national parliament, which is controlled by Yanukovych loyalists who so far have rejected those demands.

“The authorities are already scared of us,” opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok told the crowd. “We need to press them further.”

begin optional trim The protests started after Mr. Yanukovych ditched a key treaty with the European Union in favour of a bailout loan from Russia.

Protesters and police have been maintaining a shaky truce at giant barricades near a government district in Kyiv for several weeks, after three activists were killed in clashes last month. Another one was found dead outside Kyiv after being kidnapped from a hospital.

Many activists said Sunday they were ready to resume confrontations with police, if Mr. Yanukovych refused to concede to their demands.

“We are already tired of standing on the Maidan,” said Dmytro Shulets, 47. “Nothing happens without a fight. If talks fail, we will resort to force again.”

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