Seeking to consolidate their protest movement, leaders of major Ukrainian opposition parties demonstrating against the government of President Viktor Yanukovich said Sunday that they are establishing a nationwide political movement called Maidan, a reference to Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the Ukrainian name of Independence Square in the capital Kiev, which has been a major rallying area for the protests.
"We will make life hell for this government," said far-right nationalist leader Oleh Tyahnybok.
Establishing a political bloc could help opposition parties preserve informal networks created during rallies as they prepare for the presidential election in early 2015.
The new bloc, however, lacks a clear leader and is being co-chaired by Tyahnybok; Vitaly Klitschko, a heavyweight boxing champion who leads the liberal UDAR party; Arseny Yatsenyuk, head of Batkivshchyna party; and Yulia Tymoshenko, a jailed former prime minister and the Batkivshchyna party's first leader.
The opposition leaders are urging supporters to stay in Kiev's main square through the New Year and Christmas, even as street protests appeared to be losing momentum. In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's calendar, Christmas falls on Jan. 7.
About 100,000 people gathered at Kiev's Independence Square to demonstrate for the fifth weekend in a row against Yanukovich's decision to shelve a trade deal with the European Union (EU) and instead pursue closer ties with Russia.
Although it was a relatively strong showing — enough to fill the square and adjacent streets — the number was the lowest this month, and around half the previous weekend's turnout which was estimated at up to 200,000 people.
"We will not leave," Klitschko told the rally. "We will celebrate the New Year here and we will celebrate Christmas here."
Street protests erupted after Yanukovich's decision on Nov. 21 to walk away from an agreement on free trade and political association with the EU, after years of careful preparation. His opponents accuse him of turning instead to Ukraine's former Soviet overlord Russia.
The U-turn, while backed by many in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine which is Yanukovich's power base, angered others in western and central areas, where people see the country's future in Europe.
The rallies grew larger after police violently dispersed the initial protests. Demonstrators have since erected barricades around the downtown area, including a city government building which they have occupied.
However, despite securing support from Western powers and many of Kiev's inhabitants — who are donating money, food and other supplies — the protests have failed to deter Yanukovich.
Last week, he secured a $15 billion bailout from Russia along with a hefty price cut for natural gas, which Ukraine imports from its neighbor to heat homes and fuel industry.
The initial intensity behind the demonstrations — bolstered by huge rallies and protesters' ability to repel riot police — is wearing thin, and keeping people on the streets will become harder, especially with holidays approaching and the weather likely to get colder.
The lack of tangible achievements is also wearing down protesters, said Mykhailo Pohrebinsky of the Kiev Center of Political Research. But it could also push some towards more radical action and spark violence.
"The situation is very dangerous," Pohrebinsky told Reuters.
Some protesters, meanwhile, are growing impatient for signs of a clear strategy.
"People are standing here, but I don't see any concrete plan, something has to change," said Sergei Dutko, a 33-year-old protester who is unemployed.