The crisis in Ukraine threatened to split the country along East-West fault lines as the Parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from power while he accused the opposition of a “coup” and pro-Russian Eastern provinces refused to accept Kiev’s authority
Hours after he signed an accord with the opposition to end a three-month long standoff Mr. Yanukovych appeared to have lost the grip on power and fled Kiev to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city in the East, denouncing the events in the capital as “vandalism, banditry and a coup d’etat.”
In Kiev protesters, who booed and heckled opposition leaders on Friday for striking a “compromise” deal with Mr. Yanukovych, on Saturday took control of the presidential office and government buildings in Kiev after police and security forces withdrew in keeping with the Parliament’s ruling. The activists also occupied Mr. Yanukovych’s residence outside Kiev and opened it to the public for sightseeing. In a breach of the accord between Mr. Yanukovych and the opposition the radicals protesters refused to surrender their arms and continued their vigil in Kiev.
Opposition lawmakers, boosted by defectors from the ruling party, voted on Saturday to “approve the resignation” of Mr. Yanukovych and call new elections for May 25. This contravenes the agreement between Mr. Yanukovych and the opposition, which provided for new elections to be held before the end of the year.
The Parliament also voted to set free former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed during Mr. Yanukovych’s presidency for abuse of power. Emerging from prison Ms. Tymoshenko declared that “dictatorship has fallen” and said he would run for President. Ms. Tymoshenko, the star of the “orange revolution” of 2004, narrowly lost to Mr. Yanukovych in the 2010 elections.
Mr. Yanukovych went on local television in Kharkiv to state that he was still the legitimate President and would do all in his power to “protect the people” and “end the bloodshed.”
“I will not resign and will not leave the country,” Mr. Yanukovych said.
Officials and lawmakers of the eastern regions at an emergency meeting in Kharkiv on Saturday accused the opposition of breaking the terms of accord with Mr. Yanukovych and voted “to assume full responsibility for maintaining law and order, the rights and safety of the people on their territories” until “constitutional law and order is restored” in the country.
In phone calls on Saturday to the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland, who brokered the anti-crisis accord in Ukraine, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed the Ukrainian opposition, not only for failing to honour the agreement, but also for “submitting itself to armed extremists and looters whose actions pose a direct threat to the sovereignty and constitutional order of Ukraine.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the European Ministers “admitted the non-compliance by the opposition of some of its obligations and promised to take urgent additional steps to ensure implementation of the agreements.”