Ukrainian protesters claim control over capital

Ukraine's president reportedly fled the capital for his support base in Ukraine's Russia-leaning east.

Kiev (ukraine) | Updated: February 22, 2014 3:32:14 pm
Anti-government protesters watch a live broadcast from the parliament in central Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Anti-government protesters watch a live broadcast from the parliament in central Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.

Protesters in the Ukrainian capital claimed full control of the city on Saturday following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation’s three-month political crisis.

The nation’s embattled president reportedly fled the capital for his support base in Ukraine’s Russia-leaning east.

Media outlets reported that President Viktor Yanukovych left Kiev for his native eastern Ukraine after surrendering much of his powers and agreeing to early elections this fall.

The changes came as part of Friday’s deal intended to end violence that killed scores and left hundreds wounded in Kiev this week as snipers opened fire on protesters.

Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the protest camp on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Yanukovych fled for Kharkiv, the center of Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

Ukrainian protesters said they had taken control of the presidential administration building in central Kiev, as opposition leaders pressed for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday.

“He’s not here, none of his officials or anyone linked directly to the administration are here,” Ostap Kryvdyk, a protest leader, told a Reuters reporter inside the grounds of the administration building. He said protesters had not used force to enter the compound.

The claims of the president’s departure could not be immediately confirmed, however. Parubiy also said that protesters are now in full control of the capital. Police Friday’s retreated from their positions in Kiev’s government district, and the night passed quietly.

However, a security source claimed that President Viktor Yanukovich is still in Ukraine, following reports his residence was empty and unguarded and his offices were in the hands of protesters.

“Everything’s ok with him,” the source said. “He is in Ukraine.” Asked whether the embattled leader was in the capital, the source replied: “I cannot say.”

The UNIAN news agency cited Anna Herman, a lawmaker close to Yanukovich, as saying the president was in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Despite significant concessions made by Yanukovych, many of the protesters have remained dissatisfied with the deal and pushed for his immediate ouster.

They booed opposition figures who took to a stage Friday evening to present the deal, which cuts Yanukovych’s powers and calls for early elections but falls short of demands for his immediate resignation.

“Death to the criminal!” some chanted, referring to Yanukovych. The leader of a major radical group that spearheaded clashes with police, Pravy Sektor, declared on Friday that “the national revolution will continue.”

A motion seeking the president’s impeachment was submitted late Friday to the Ukrainian parliament, where members of Yanukovych’s faction defected in droves to the opposition side, quickly passing constitutional amendments that trimmed
Yanukovych’s powers.

It wasn’t clear if and when the impeachment motion would be put to vote. Neither side won all the points it sought in Friday’s deal, and some vague conditions could ignite strong disputes down the road.

The agreement signed on Friday calls for presidential elections to be moved up from March 2015 to no later than December, but many protesters said that is far too late.

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