Supporters of Ukraine's pro-Russian prime minister have converged on central Kiev to protest against the West-leaning president.
The protest comes in the midst of a worsening political crisis culminating in President Viktor Yushchenko's decision to dissolve parliament and call an early general election.
Irate at Mr Yushchenko's decision, they heard PM Viktor Yanukovych urge them into defiance.
Many elderly people have taken to the streets to express their disapproval.
Mr Yanukovych stepped down to shake hands, visibly elated at the display of support.
Mr Yushchenko, who accuses his rival of trying to usurp power unconstitutionally, called a meeting to get the PM to implement his decree.
Mr Yanukovych refused - as did his majority in parliament which is defying the president's order to dissolve.
As commander-in-chief, the president met security chiefs and promised not to allow violence to be used.
Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko may benefit from a new election set for 27 May - her party trails that of Mr Yanukovych in opinion polls.