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Ukrainian Parliament Votes To Oust President, Tymoshenko Released From Jail

Ukraine's parliament has voted to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from jail.

Lawmakers voted on February 22 to hold early presidential elections on May 25, stating that Yanukovych had failed to properly fulfil his duties as president.

The vote came after Yanukovych said in an interview with a Ukrainian TV station that he does not plan to resign, and that all decisions taken by parliament are illegal.

He described recent events in Ukraine as "vandalism, banditry, and a coup," adding that he does not plan to resign.

Yanukovych's comments come after antigovernment protesters in Kyiv seized the presidential administration office.

Meanwhile, Tymoshenko has arrived in Kyiv after being released from a prison hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv

A few hours previously, parliamentary lawmakers had voted to release the jailed former prime minister.

Altogether, 322 of the 331 deputies present in the 450-seat chamber voted in favor of the resolution. Many lawmakers from President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Region were not present for the vote.

According to a reporter from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, who was at the scene when Tymoshenko left the hospital, she told a crowd of supporters: "Today our whole country can see the sun and the sky, because today the dictatorship fell. And it was not knocked down by politicians or diplomats, but by the people."

The leader of her Fatherland party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said Tymoshenko is on her way to Kyiv, which has been the epicenter of antigovernment protesters in recent months.

Earlier in the fast-paced day, deputies selected Tymoshenko allies Arsen Avakov as interior minister and Oleksandr Turchynov as parliament speaker.

Former speaker Volodymyr Rybak had resigned his post on the morning of February 22, citing ill health as his reason for stepping down.

Parliament also passed a no-confidence vote in Prosecutor-General Vikto Pshonka.

It appointed Oleh Mikhitskiy as his successor, as well as Volodymyr Zamana as the new defense minister.

Opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok, the head of the nationalist Svoboda party, told lawmakers on February 22 that it is essential to maintain Ukraine's territorial integrity.

"We have no right to allow our country to split up," he said. "We are all statesmen here and we should understand that there are people who are interested in the break-up of Ukraine. Our task is to keep the territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Meanwhile, officials from the Party of Regions are meeting in the eastern city of Kharkiv. According to a presidential aide, President Yanukovych is participating in the Kharkiv conference, but that report has not been confirmed.

Russian State Duma Deputy Aleksei Pushkov, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, is heading a Russian delegation at the Kharkiv conference that includes the governors of four neighboring Russian regions.

"At the congress in Kharkiv," Pushkov wrote on Twitter, "there is not a gram of separatism. The main theme of the speeches: 'We aren't preparing to split the country, but to preserve it.'"

WATCH: A Calm Vigilance Reigns On Kyiv's Independence Square
Calm Vigilance On Kyiv's Independence Square
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Delegates in Kharkiv, however, have expressed doubt at the legitimacy of the measures being adopted by the parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry posted a statement on its website saying it is "fully with the Ukrainian people" and calling for "joint efforts to ensure public order."

Antigovernment protesters in Kyiv have seized the presidential administration office. Demonstrators have also gathered outside Yanukovych's presidential residence on the outskirts of the capital.

On February 21, Yanukovych and opposition leaders signed an agreement restoring the country's 2004 constitution, calling for a government of national unity, and calling for an early presidential election before the end of the year.

The 2004 constitutuion overturned by the Constitutional Court in 2010 after Yanukovych had taken office, removes some powers from the presidential office and enhances the powers of parliament.

With reporting by Kyiv Post, Interfax, and Reuters
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