UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO OUST PRESIDENT, SETS EARLY ELECTIONS

FoxNews on February 22, 2014, reported that the Ukrainian parliament voted to set early elections for May 25 after declaring President Viktor Yanukovych unable to carry out constitutional duties. Excerpts below:

Parliament also arranged the release of Yanukovych’s arch-rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, by voting to decriminalize the count under which she was imprisoned. Tymoshenko was convicted of abuse of office, charges that domestic and Western critics have denounced as a political vendetta.

A party spokeswoman said Tymoshenko was released after 2 1/2 years in a Kharkiv prison, and headed to the capital to join protesters there.

“You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine!” she said of those killed in the violence, while speaking for a wheelchair.

Asked by crowds gathered at the hospital where she was released about her further plans, Tymoshenko said, “I will run for president,” news agencies reported.

She said she will “make it so that no drop of blood that was spilled will be forgotten.”

The agreement reached on February 21 between Yanukovych and leaders of the opposition protests that have brought Ukraine into crisis called for early elections that were to be held no later than December, and constitutional reforms to reduce the president’s powers.

But the possibility that he could remain in office for the rest of the year angered protesters who want his immediate departure, and said the deal did not address what triggered the protests in November — Yankuvych’s abandonment of closer ties with the European Union in favor of a bailout deal with longtime ruler Russia.

The protesters, who are angry over corruption and want Ukraine to move toward Europe rather than Russia, claimed full control of Kiev and took up positions around the president’s office and a grandiose residential compound believed to be his, though he never acknowledged it.

At the sprawling suburban Kiev compound, protesters stood guard and blocked more radical elements among them from entering the building, fearing unrest. Moderate protesters have sought to prevent their comrades from looting or taking up the weapons that have filled Kiev in recent weeks.

The compound became an emblem of the secrecy and arrogance that defines Yanukovych’s presidency, painting him as a leader who basks in splendor while his country’s economy suffers and his opponents are jailed.

Protesters attached a Ukrainian flag to a lamppost at the compound, shouting: “Glory to Ukraine!”

In a special parliament session, lawmakers warned that the country risks being split in two. The country’s western regions want to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych’s authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine — which accounts for the bulk of the nation’s economic output — favors closer ties with Russia.

“The people have risen up and achieved their goals. The authorities are crumbling. Victory is in sight,” 31-year-old construction worker Sviatoslav Gordichenko said outside a residential compound believed to belong to Yanukovych.

Ukraine’s parliament,…,seemed to be taking control of the country’s leadership.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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