Kiev: Riot police deployed near protest sites

Pro-European Union activists walk as a EU flag flies over the Independence Square with a poster of of jailed Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on a metal base of destroyed Christmas tree in KIev, Ukraine, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Dozens of riot police in full gear have moved into the center of the Ukrainan capital where opposition activists have been occupying a city administration building and a central square. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of riot police in full gear positioned themselves outside the Kiev city administration on Monday, the deadline a court has set for the protesters occupying the building to leave.

Opposition activists have asked protesters to leave the city building and another building they had occupied to avoid clashes, but the police presence stoked fears that the government planned to disperse the mass protests that have gripped Ukraine's capital for weeks.

The policemen, wearing helmets and holding shields, formed a chain across Kiev's main street outside the city building.

President Viktor Yanukovych has faced weeks of protests after shelving a treaty with the European Union last month to focus on ties with Moscow.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for Yanukovych's ouster poured into the streets of Kiev, toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and blockading government buildings in the escalating standoff with the president over the future of the country.

The government has demanded that the protests disperse and threatened harsh measures.