KIEV, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Dramatic changes were witnessed in Ukraine Saturday as the country's parliament ousted President Viktor Yanukovich after more than three months of violent protests, and released Yanukovich's arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko.
Yanukovich, who insisted he would not step down, has left Kiev for his support base in the country's pro-Russian east, resulting in a political vacuum in the government.
Former Prime Minister Tymoshenko came back again Saturday to the spotlight as she turned herself up in the Independence Square and addressed anti-government protesters in central Kiev, soon after she had been freed from jail.
Yanukovich had warned that 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.
It was unclear who would fill the vacuum left by Yanukovich as the parliament voted to set early elections for May 25.
The opposition lawmaker Arsen Avakov, one of the leaders of the anti-government protests, was elected Saturday acting interior minister by the parliament until the new unity government is formed.
The parliament also elected Alexandr Turchinov, an ally of Tymoshenko, as new speaker after his predecessor Volodymyr Rybak had resigned due to health reasons.
Opposition website "Ukrainska Pravda" said that Tymoshenko 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 demonstration.
However, Tymoshenko called on protestors to continue their encampment in the Independence Square.
"You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine!" the opposition icon said in a touching speech to a 50,000-strong crowd in the square, known in Ukrainian as the Maidan.
"In no case do you have the right to leave the Maidan until you have concluded everything that you planned to do," she said, sitting in a wheelchair due to a back problem.
The Independence Square, where a sprawling protest tent camp was set up in December, has been the center stage for the past three months of anti-government demonstration in Ukraine, whose latest escalation has claimed dozens of lives.
The United States and the European Union hailed unanimously the ouster of Yanukovich. The U.S. said Saturday the dramatic ouster of Yanukovich and the release of Tymoshenko could move the country away from violence toward a political settlement.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Saturday welcomed the release of Tymoshenko.
"This comes as an important step forward in view of addressing concerns regarding selective justice in the country," said Ashton in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Saturday expressed serious concern over what he called the failure of the Ukrainian opposition to fulfill a peace deal.
"The opposition has not fulfilled any obligations and it has made new demands following the actions taken by armed extremists and rioters, who posed a direct threat to sovereignty and the constitutional system of Ukraine," Lavrov said during a telephone conversation with foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France.
Lavrov urged three Western ministers, who mediated and witnessed the signing of the crisis settlement agreement on Friday, to use their influence upon the opposition to stop the violence immediately, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Photo>>>Ukraine's ex-PM Tymoshenko addresses supporters after release
Ukraine parliament approves dramatic changes, president says coup
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. Full story
White House welcomes "constructive work" in Ukraine's parliament
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The White House on Saturday welcomed what it called "constructive work" in Ukraine's parliament, where the opposition has taken control and lawmakers voted to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych, one day after the two sides signed a deal seeking to end a spiral of lethal violence in the country.Full story
EP president welcomes reported release of Yulia Tymoshenko
BRUSSELS, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The president of the European Parliament (EP) Martin Schulz on Saturday welcomed the reported release of Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
"On behalf of the European Parliament, I warmly welcome the reports of Yulia Tymoshenko's release from prison," said Schulz in his statement, "This is an historic moment for Ukraine and Europe. My thoughts are with Yulia, her family and supporters."Full story
Russia concerned over failure of Ukrainian opposition to implement peace deal
MOSCOW, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Saturday expressed serious concern over what he called the failure of the Ukrainian opposition to fulfill a peace deal with President Viktor Yanukovych.
"The opposition has not fulfilled any obligations and it has made new demands following the actions taken by armed extremists and rioters, who posed a direct threat to sovereignty and the constitutional system of Ukraine," Lavrov said during a telephone conversations with foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France.Full story