|Protesters celebrate in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, Feb. 22, 2014. Ukrainian Parliament on Saturday passed a resolution to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych from his post over his evasion of constitutional duties and schedule presidential elections for May 25, 2014. (Xinhua/Dai Tianfang)
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KIEV, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Ukraine's Parliament voted on Saturday to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych from his office and set early elections, a day after he made concessions to his pro-European opponents in a European-mediated peace deal to end the three-month political crisis in the former Soviet republic.
The parliament also released his arch-rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who walked free from a prison facility Saturday night to join supporters in Kiev, in a dramatic turnabout in the East European country sitting at the strategic important juncture between Russia and Europe.
However, Yanukovych, who has left Kiev to his support base in the country's pro-Russian east, denounced the events as a coup after a week of bloody fighting in the streets of the capital and insisted he would not step down.
During its morning session, the parliament elected Alexandr Turchinov, an ally of Tymoshenko, as new speaker after his predecessor Volodymyr Rybak from the ruling Party of Regions resigned citing health reasons.
The parliament also passed a non-confidence motion against Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and elected opposition lawmaker Arsen Avakov, one of the leaders of the anti-government protests, as acting interior minister until a new unity government is formed.
Hours later, lawmakers voted to free Tymoshenko, a key opposition leader, who was serving a seven-year jail term in an out-of-prison health center in eastern city of Kharkiv on charges of abuse of power over a 2009 gas deal with Russia.
The biggest surprise for Ukrainians and the international community came when the parliament voted in the evening session to Yanukovych from his office.
Declaring Yanukovych constitutionally unable to carry out his duties, the newly elected speaker Turchinov set early elections for May 25.
The parliament's decision came shortly after Yanukovych said he would not accept any parliament decisions as opposition leaders behaved as "gangsters, who terrorize Ukrainian people."
"The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d' etat," he said, comparing it to the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1930s.
He dismissed rumors of his resignation, saying he would not leave the country. "My car was shot at. I am not afraid. I feel sorry for my country," he told UBR television.
The president's powers dwindled after the parliament implemented key opposition demands on Friday, hours after he signed the peace settlement accord with opposition leaders to end the bloodshed in Kiev that left at least 77 people killed and hundreds of others injured.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government said the situation remained manageable as the cabinet and the parliament were functioning within the framework of the country's legislation.
The Ukrainian cabinet said it was committed to a responsible transfer of power. Military and police leaders said they would not get involved in any internal conflict.
Opposition website "Ukrainska Pravda" said that Tymoshenko after her release intends to run for president in the May election. However, this information was not confirmed by Tymoshenko yet.
Late Saturday evening, Turchinov said that the protests have reached their goals and urged the activists to end their demonstrators.
However, the influential far-right movement the Right Sector said that it does not intend to leave the central Kiev and stop protests.
The protesters remained on Kiev's Independent Square, the focal point of the anti-government movement, in defiance of the deal reached Friday that stipulates they must withdraw from public buildings.
The anti-government protests began in November after Yanukovych shelved a trade and economic agreement with the European Union and turned instead to Russia for financial aid.
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