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Tymoshenko Urges Protesters To Carry On

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses antigovernment protesters on Kyiv's Independence Square.
Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has urged antigovernment demonstrators on Kyiv’s Independence Square not to abandon their protests, despite moves by parliament to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych and schedule early presidential elections in May.

Tymoshenko was addressing thousands of protesters on the evening of February 22 in central Kyiv after being released from a prison hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv in a move that was also ordered by parliament.

Speaking from a wheelchair, Tymoshenko said: "You are heroes; you are the best of Ukraine."

The square has been the center of a three-month protest movement against Yanukovych, Tymoshenko’s chief rival.

Tymoshenko appeared to emphasize that Yanukovych and his cohorts should be held to account for the events of recent days, in which dozens of antigovernment demonstrators died in clashes with security forces.

"I was sitting in prison thinking that there was no bigger happiness than to be born and to live among you, because you are the best," she told the crowd. "But now, we have to do a couple of important things. First of all, we have to bring Yanukovych and all this scum that gathered around him here to the square."

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

"The people of Ukraine, our country, cannot depend on the mood of the president who withdrew from executing his duties and remains at an unknown location," new parliament speaker Oleksander Turchynov said before the vote.

In a prerecorded interview aired earlier the same day on UBR, a Ukrainian station based in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Yanukovych said that he does not plan to resign.

Describing the events in Ukraine as “vandalism, banditry, and a coup,” Yanukovych also said that all the decisions that had just been taken by parliament were illegal.

"I'm not going to leave Ukraine or go anywhere," he said. "I'm not going to resign. I'm a legitimately elected president. I was given guarantees by all international mediators which I worked with -- that they are giving me security guarantees. I will see how they will fulfill that role."

Tymoshenko’s release from a prison hospital in Kharkiv comes after she he was jailed for seven years in 2011 on charges of abuse of power.

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."

WATCH: Yulia Tymoshenko Addresses Protesters In Kyiv
Yulia Tymoshenko Speaks On Kyiv's Independence Square
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In other moves by parliament on February 22, lawmakers selected Tymoshenko's political allies Arsen Avakov as interior minister and Turchynov as parliament speaker.

Turchynov told parliament that "the [new] authorities in Ukraine are starting to work, they are beginning their work again to stabilize Ukraine. The center of power in Ukraine is here in Ukraine's parliament."

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

In a statement, the military general staff said, "The armed forces of Ukraine are loyal to their constitutional obligations and cannot be pulled into domestic political conflict."

The announcement came hours after the Interior Ministry said it is "fully with the Ukrainian people" and called for "joint efforts to ensure public order."

LIVE BLOG: Follow Events In Ukraine As They Unfolded

In Kharkiv, a delegation of regional governors signed a statement rejecting the authority of parliament.

In a resolution, they called on local governments to "take responsibility for safeguarding the constitutional order, legality, citizens' rights and their security on our territories" until "constitutional order and lawfulness are restored."

On February 21, Yanukovych and opposition leaders signed an agreement pledging to restore 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.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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