Yet another Ukraine truce lasted all but a few hours. Civilian stormed the presidential palace Saturday morning and now control most of it.
President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev and is now in an Eastern Ukraine city closer to Russia.
Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Called
The New York Times reports Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Called.
Abandoned by his own guards and reviled across the Ukrainian capital but still determined to recover his shredded authority, President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday to denounce what he called a violent coup, as his official residence, his vast, colonnaded office complex and other once impregnable centers of power fell without a fight to throngs of joyous citizens stunned by their triumph.
In the capital, protesters carrying clubs and some wearing masks were in control of the entryways to the presidential palace Saturday morning, and watched as thousands of citizens strolled through the grounds, gazing in wonder at the mansions, zoo, golf course and enclosure for rare pheasants, set in a birch forest on a bluff soaring above the Dnieper River.
With nobody clearly in charge, other than the so far remarkably disciplined fighting squads set up to protect a protest encampment in Independence Square, the Ukrainian capital and even the whole country faced a potentially dangerous power vacuum.
With security officers having disappeared from the streets, protesters claimed to have established control over Kiev. By Saturday morning they had secured key intersections of the city and the government district of the capital, which riot police officers had fled, leaving behind burned military trucks, mattresses and heaps of garbage at the positions they had occupied for months. There was no sign of looting, either in the city or in the presidential compound.
Ukraine Parliament Impeaches Yanukovich
Reuters reports Ukraine Parliament Removes Yanukovich, Who Flees Kiev in ‘Coup’
Ukraine’s parliament voted on Saturday to remove President Viktor Yanukovich, who abandoned his Kiev office to protesters and denounced what he described as a coup after a week of fighting in the streets of the capital.
Parliament also freed his arch-nemesis, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who walked free from the hospital where she had been jailed, completing a radical transformation in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.
The apparent toppling of the pro-Russian leader, after bloodshed in Kiev that saw 77 people killed and the center of the capital transformed into an inferno, looks likely to pull Ukraine away from Moscow’s orbit and closer to Europe.
Members of the Ukrainian parliament, which decisively abandoned Yanukovich after this week’s bloodshed, stood, applauded and sang the national anthem after it declared the president constitutionally unable to carry out his duties and set an early election for May 25.
“This is a political knockout,” opposition leader and retired world boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko told reporters.
Ukraine’s parliamentary speaker said Yanukovich had been prevented from boarding a plane to Russia and was now in the Donetsk region, Interfax news agency reported.
Despite his defiance, the dismantling of his authority seemed all but complete, with his cabinet promising a transition to a new government, the police declaring themselves behind the protesters and his arch-rival Tymoshenko going free.
The release of Tymoshenko transforms Ukraine by giving the opposition a single leader and potential future president, although Klitschko and others also have claims.
The 53-year-old known for her distinctive blonde braid was jailed by a court under Yanukovich over a natural gas deal with Russia she arranged while serving as premier before he took office. The EU had long considered her a political prisoner, and her freedom was one of the main demands it had for closer ties with Ukraine during years of negotiations that ended when Yanukovich abruptly turned towards Moscow in November.
She had served as a leader of the “Orange Revolution” of mass demonstrations which overturned a fraudulent election victory for Yanukovich in 2004, but after a divisive term as prime minister she lost to him in an election in 2010.
The Guardian has live updates at this link: Ukraine: Tymoshenko freed as president denounces coup – live updates
Mike “Mish” Shedlock