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Ukrainian president denounces "coup", Tymoshenko freed

English.news.cn   2014-02-22 23:41:05

KIEV, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The political situation in Ukraine changed drastically Saturday as protesters took control of the capital and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison.

In an interview with a Ukrainian TV station, President Viktor Yanukovych denounced the events witnessed by his country as "an example of a coup d'etat." He also dismissed rumours of his resignation, saying he would not leave the country.

Yanukovych reportedly left Kiev for the pro-Russian east of the country. His presidential office in Kiev was seized by anti-government protesters Saturday, while his Mezhyhirya private residence in the Novi Petrivtsi village outside Kiev was also occupied by an anti-government militia.

Tymoshenko, who was serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted in October 2011 of abuse of power over a 2009 gas deal with Russia, was released from prison, hours after her ally Alexandr Turchinov was elected parliament speaker in place of Volodymyr Rybak, who resigned due to health reasons.

Earlier in the day, the parliament approved a fast-track procedure for Tymoshenko's release that did not require the president's endorsement.

Tymoshenko's daughter said the 53-year-old female leader was already free but still in hospital receiving medical treatment.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitchko called for an early presidential election in May, rather than December as agreed under a peace deal signed Friday between President Yanukovych and the opposition.

The agreement, aimed at ending anti-government rallies, envisaged the reduction of presidential powers through constitutional changes, the formation of a national unity government within 10 days and an early presidential election.

The Ukrainian government, still led by a Yanukovich ally, said it would ensure a smooth handover of power to a new administration.

Also on Saturday, opposition lawmaker Arsen Avakov, one of the leaders of the anti-government protests, was elected acting interior minister by the parliament until the new unity government is formed.

A total of 275 lawmakers supported the candidacy of Avakov to replace Vitaly Zakharchenko, who was dismissed by the parliament Friday over the violence.

On Saturday, the parliament also passed a non-confidence motion against Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka.

Yanukovych said in the TV interview all decisions taken by the parliament on the day were illegal. He said he would sign nothing with gangsters who were "terrorizing" the country.

He said his car had come under fire on the way, but he was not afraid, adding he would now travel through southeast Ukraine meeting people.

Protests began in Ukraine in November after Yanukovych shelved a trade and economic agreement with the European Union (EU) and turned instead to Russia for financial aid.

The anti-government rallies turned violent Tuesday, when protesters attacked police with Molotov cocktails and set fires outside the parliament, while the police responded with stun grenades and water cannons. The standoff left at least 77 people dead and hundreds of others injured.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday condemned the opposition for failing to deliver on the Feb. 21 agreement with President Yanukovych.

Lavrov conveyed the message to his German, Polish and French counterparts -- the EU trio that helped broker the deal, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"The opposition not only has failed to fulfil a single one of its obligations but is already presenting new demands all the time, following the lead of armed extremists and pogromists, whose actions pose a direct threat to Ukraine's sovereignty and constitutional order," Lavrov told the EU ministers, according to a statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.

Editor: yan
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