Ukraine Parliament Votes To Remove President Yanukovych
He has fled the capital.
Updated — 2:29 p.m., ET
Ukraine’s parliament voted on Saturday to remove President Viktor Yanukovych, who has fled the capital Kiev for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, where his support is stronger, fueling fears that the embattled country could fracture. They called for early elections on May 25.
The vote came shortly after Yanukovych gave a defiant interview to state television to counter rumors that he had resigned. “Everything that’s happening today is, for the most part, vandalism and banditism and a government coup,” Yanukovych said. “I will do everything to protect my country from breaking up and to stop the bloodshed.”
Yanukovych, speaking from the city of Kharkiv, refused increasingly loud calls to resign, saying “I will remain on the territory of Ukraine.” “I have no fear,” he added.
The renewed chaos in Ukraine came one day after Yanukovych and opposition leaders signed a deal designed to end a crisis that has left more than 70 people dead. People initially took to the streets late last year to protest Yanukovych’s decision to reverse course on building stronger ties with Europe in favor of boosting relations with Russia, the country’s Soviet-era master. Yanukovych launched a bloody crackdown on the movement this week.
Parliament’s vote to remove Yanukovych was the body’s latest move against the country’s leadership. On Friday, they also voted to release Yulia Tymoshenko, a jailed opposition leader and Yanukovych’s chief rival, as well as to reduce presidential powers. Tymoshenko walked free on Saturday afternoon.
Tymoshenko spent most of her sentence in a prison hospital, after complaining of back problems. She left it Saturday in a wheelchair:
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=4EzDnQV2YDc.