Monday, April 21, 2014


Ukraine

Ukrainian President Leaves Kyiv, Parliament Speaker Resigns

Ukrainian riot police leave the area around the country's parliament on February 21 after an agreement was reached between opposition leaders and President Yanukovych on February 21 to resolve the country's political crisis.
Ukrainian riot police leave the area around the country's parliament on February 21 after an agreement was reached between opposition leaders and President Yanukovych on February 21 to resolve the country's political crisis.
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By RFE/RL
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has left Kyiv and his presidential offices in Kyiv have been left unguarded, with opposition protesters apparently in full control of the government district.

A presidential aide, Hanna Herman, told news agencies that the Yanukovychhas no intention of leaving Ukraine, but is visiting the eastern city of Kharkiv.

As parliament met on February 22, the speaker, Volodymyr Rybak resigned, citing ill health as his reason for stepping down. Ukrainian lawmakers later voted to replace him with Oleksander Tuchynov,  close ally of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The move comes a day after deputies voted to allow for her release.

Also on February 22, parliament elected opposition lawmaker Arsen Avakov as Interior Minister until a new coalition government is formed.

During the parliament session, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged lawmakers to pass a resolution calling on President Viktor Yanukovych to resign "immediately" over the use of police force against protesters. 

Klitschko said Yanukovych has left the capital, and that "today, parliament is the only legitimate body of power." He also said that parliament must dismiss Yanukovych and set early elections for no later than May 25. 

In Kyiv, antigovernment protesters rejected a peace deal signed by Yanukovych and opposition leaders on February 21, threatening instead to storm Ukraine’s presidential palace unless Yanukovych resigns by the morning of February 22.

The EU-brokered peace deal calls for a unity government and early elections by December.

But many antigovernment demonstrators on the streets of central Kyiv say it is too long to wait until December for elections.

They want Yanukovych to resign immediately and face criminal prosecution for the deaths of more than 70 people in political violence during the past three months – including dozens of demonstrators killed during clashes with police in Kyiv during the past week.


LIVE BLOG -- Crisis In Ukraine

On February 21, parliament took steps toward meeting the demands of Ukraine’s opposition, voting to amend the criminal code in a way that could allow the release of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, provided a series of additional steps are also taken, including a release order from the Ukrainian courts.

Parliament also voted on the same day to restore Ukraine's 2004 constitution, to implement an amnesty for opposition protesters who face criminal charges, and to sack Ukraine’s interior minister.

In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone on February 21, agreeing that promised reforms need to be implemented quickly in order avert further violence in Ukraine.

A White House statement says they spoke about the need "for all sides to refrain from further violence."

It says Putin and Obama also spoke about the importance of stabilizing the troubled economic situation in Ukraine -- which faces a possible debt default.

Political Solution?

In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton hailed February 21 agreement between Yanukovych and opposition leaders as a move that "opens the way for a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine."

But Ashton also said the immediate implementation of the agreement will be "challenging."

Washington and the EU blame Ukrainian authorities for the deaths of dozens of protesters in central Kyiv amid evidence that security forces and government snipers fired live ammunition at demonstrators.

Brussels and Washington responded with economic sanctions against a list of senior Ukrainian officials.

Ashton said the lifting of those sanctions would depend on the actual implementation of the peace deal.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also said Washington is not yet ready to lift the sanctions threat.

"Our focus today [February 21] is working with our European partners as well as the government and opposition in Ukraine to ensure the agreement's implementation. And we are not ruling out sanctions to hold those responsible for the violence accountable, especially should there be more violence or violation of the agreement. "

Moscow blames demonstrators for the violence. On February 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the EU to condemn and distance itself from "radicals" that it says are responsible.

Correspondents in Kyiv report that there is a high level of distrust between all sides in the crisis as a result of the deadly violence.

That has raised doubts on the streets of Kyiv about the implementation of pledges by Yanukovych and parliament.

But Ukraine’s acting Defense Minister Pavel Lebedev told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel by telephone February 21 that the need to deploy Ukraine's armed forces is "no longer urgent."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and the BBC

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