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HomeNewsDefiant Ukraine President Flees Kiev With Tymoshenko Freed And Protestors In Palace

Defiant Ukraine President Flees Kiev With Tymoshenko Freed And Protestors In Palace

Ukraine President
Ukraine President

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses the crowd in central Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Hours after being released from prison, former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko praised the demonstrators killed in violence this week as heroes.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Hours after the release of Yulia Tymoshenko, the arch-rival of the now-ostracized Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, protestors stormed the palace forcing the Russian-backed leader to flee Kiev. He denounced what he and his Russian allies characterized as a “coup” carried out by “bandits” and “hooligans.”

Tymoshenko, who was released from prison after 2 1/2 years in captivity, spoke to a crowd of about 50,000 from a wheelchair she is remanded to due to the severe back problems she suffered in prison. Only one day earlier, President Yanukovych signed an agreement with opposition leaders that limited his powers and called for early elections.

However, under the leadership of Oleksandr V. Turchynov, a former acting prime minister and close ally of Tymoshenko, a veto-proof majority of more than 300 of the 450 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament voted to declare the president unable to fulfill his constitutional duties and set a date for new elections.

In Kharkiv, Yanukovych was defiant in tone and words, declaring that he viewed the actions of the Ukrainian Parliament as invalid and likened the protestors to Nazis. “Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and banditry and a coup d’etat,” he said. “I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed.”

But bloodshed there has been during the crisis in Ukraine. The Health Ministry on Saturday said the death toll from clashes between protesters and police, which included sniper attacks, had reached 82.

Ukraine President

In Kiev on Saturday, opposition members, including Vitaly Klitschko, top right, celebrated as Ukraine’s Parliament voted to remove President Viktor F. Yanukovych from office hours after he abandoned his office to protesters and denounced what he described as a coup. (Reuters)

Though visibly exhausted, Tymoshenko was at no loss for passionate words, a speech which the crowd eagerly listened to with seemingly unending chants of “Yulia! Yulia!”

“You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine!” she said of those killed in the violence, vowing to run for president and promising “no drop of blood that was spilled will be forgotten.”

However, appearing on television from Kharkiv, Yanukovych made clear that he has no plans to leave his position, and though he had been abandoned by his guards, he isn’t exactly alone.

“I don’t plan to leave the country. I don’t plan to resign,” he said, notably speaking in Russian rather than Ukrainian, which is the country’s official language. “I am a legitimately elected president. What is happening today, mostly, it is vandalism, banditism and a coup d’état. This is my assessment and I am deeply convinced of this. I will remain on the territory of Ukraine.”

He characterized those who abandoned him as “traitors,” but he did not name them. Regional governors from eastern Ukraine apparently remain on Yanukovych’s side. They met in Kharkiv and adopted a resolution effectively denouncing the Parliament. They said that until the crisis is resolved, “we have decided to take responsibility for safeguarding the constitutional order, legality, citizens’ rights and their security on our territories.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday called the German, French and Polish foreign ministers and urged them to use their influence with the Ukrainian opposition to stop what is quickly becoming a forced transfer of power. But they did little other than call on them to be calm in their actions. Thursday the EU agreed in an emergency meeting to impose sanctions against the government.

“This commences a new life for Ukraine,” said protestor Roman Dakus. “This is only a start.” Another protester Viktor Fedoruk, 32, was among those who were placing flowers on the coffins of the dead.

“These are heroes of Ukraine who gave their lives so that we could live in a different country without Yanukovych,” he said. “Their names will be written in golden letters in the history of Ukraine.”

Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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