The situation in Ukraine just got more fluid, as President Yanukovych is said to have fled from Kiev and the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament announced a vote to remove him from the presidency. James Marson, Alan Cullison and Alexander Kolyandr report for the Wall Street Journal:
Government authority appeared to melt away Saturday, leaving protesters in control of the capital’s center. President Viktor Yanukovych left the capital for a city in the country’s Russian-speaking east and vowed to remain in power.
In a television interview Saturday afternoon in Kharkiv, Mr. Yanukovych denounced the events in Kiev as a “coup d’etat” that he blamed on “bandits.”
“I have no plans to leave the country and I have no plans to resign. I am the legally elected president and all the international intermediaries I’ve talked to (over the last few days) have given me guarantees of security. We’ll see how those are fulfulled,” Mr. Yanukovych told a small TV station in Kharkiv.
Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko earlier had called on parliament to vote to oust Mr. Yanukovych and announce presidential elections in May, as police withdrew from the center of the capital Saturday.
Ukraine opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was expected to be released from prison within hours, according to a spokeswoman for the opposition.
Ukraine is divided politically and linguistically on almost the same line:
The BBC reports that new elections have been called for May 25:
Ukrainian MPs have voted to oust President Yanukovych and hold early presidential elections on 25 May.
Mr Yanukovych’s spokeswoman said he did not accept the decision.
Earlier on Saturday, protesters walked unchallenged into the president’s office and residential compounds.
Also on Saturday afternoon, prominent opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from a hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv where she was being held under prison guard.
A BBC correspondent saw Tymoshenko driven away in a car after leaving the hospital.
MPs had voted to pave the way for her release on Friday. She was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 for abuse of power.
Her supporters have always maintained this was simply Mr Yanukovych taking out his most prominent opponent, and her release has always been a key demand of the protest movement.