At the president's headquarters, Ostap Kryvdyk, who described
himself as a protest commander, said some protesters had entered the
offices but there was no looting. "We will guard the building until
the next president comes," he told Reuters. "Yanukovich will never
The grounds of the president's residence outside Kiev were also
being guarded by "self-defense" militia of anti-government
protesters. Hundreds of people entered the grounds, although not the
A senior security source said the president was still in Ukraine but
was unable to say whether he was in Kiev. An ally was quoted as
saying he was in an eastern city.
Yanukovich, who enraged much of the population by turning away from
the European Union to build closer ties with Russia three months
ago, made sweeping concessions in a deal brokered by European
diplomats on Friday after days of violence that killed 77 people,
with central Kiev resembling a war zone.
But the deal, which called for early elections by the end of the
year, was not enough to satisfy demonstrators, who want Yanukovich
out immediately, following bloodshed in which his police snipers
were shooting from rooftops.
Parliament has quickly acted to implement the deal, voting to
restore a constitution that curbs the president's powers and to
change the legal code to allow his arch-adversary, jailed opposition
leader Yulia Tymoshenko, to go free. On Saturday lawmakers voted to
speed her release without requiring the president's signature.
The speaker of parliament, a Yanukovich loyalist, resigned on
Saturday and parliament elected Oleksander Turchynov, a close ally
of Tymoshenko, as his replacement.
Events were moving at a rapid pace that could see a decisive shift
in the future of a country of 46 million people away from Moscow's
orbit and closer to the West, although Ukraine is near bankruptcy
and depends on promised Russian aid to pay its bills.
"Today he (Yanukovich) left the capital," opposition leader Vitaly
Klitschko, a retired world heavyweight boxing champion, told an
emergency session of parliament debating an opposition motion
calling on the president to resign.
"Millions of Ukrainians see only one choice — early presidential and
parliamentary elections." Klitschko then tweeted that an election
should be held no later than May 25.
The senior security source said of Yanukovich: "Everything's ok with
him ... He is in Ukraine." Asked whether the leader was in Kiev, 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, in a mainly Russian-speaking province.
Two protesters in helmets stood at the entrance to the president's
Kiev office. Asked where the state security guards were, one, who
gave his name as Mykola Voloshin, said: "I'm the guard now."
Dmytro Pylipets, 32, a doctor from Kharkiv in military fatigues and
helmet, said: "I think Yanukovich is frightened and panicking. I
feel we are almost there. The Maidan revolution is almost done."
In a sign of the quick transformation, the interior ministry
responsible for the police appeared to swing behind the protests. It
said it served "exclusively the Ukrainian people and fully shares
their strong desire for speedy change".
Parliament voted on Friday to dismiss Interior Minister Vitaly
Zakharchenko, a Yanukovich loyalist blamed by the opposition for the
The ministry urged citizens to unite "in the creation of a truly
independent, democratic and just European country".
Yanukovich's broad concessions on Friday ended to 48 hours of
violence that had turned the centre of Kiev into an inferno of
blazing barricades. Without enough loyal police to restore order,
the authorities had resorted to placing snipers on rooftops who shot
demonstrators in the head and neck.
The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland negotiated the
concessions from Yanukovich, in what the Kremlin's envoy
acknowledged as superior diplomacy.
"The EU representatives were in their own way trying to be useful,
they started the talks," said Russian envoy Vladimir Lukin. "We
joined the talks later, which wasn't very right. One should have
agreed on the format of the talks right from the start," Lukin was
quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
[to top of second column]
Yanukovich, 63, a burly former Soviet regional transport official
with two convictions for assault, did not smile during a signing
ceremony at the presidential headquarters on Friday.
"YOU'LL ALL BE DEAD"
It took hard lobbying to persuade the opposition to accept the deal,
and crowds in the streets made clear they were not satisfied with an
arrangement that would leave Yanukovich in power. Video filmed
outside a meeting room during Friday's talks showed Polish Foreign
Minister Vladislaw Sikorski pleading with opposition delegates: "If
you don't support this, you'll have martial law, you'll have the
army, you'll all be dead."
Anti-government protesters remained encamped in Independence Square,
known as the Maidan or "Euro-Maidan", through the night. They held
aloft coffins of slain comrades and denounced opposition leaders for
shaking Yanukovich's hand.
The week's violence was by far the worst to hit Ukraine since it
emerged from the breakup of the Soviet Union.
With borders drawn up by Bolshevik commissars, Ukraine has faced an
identity crisis since independence. It fuses territory that has been
integral to Russia since the Middle Ages with provinces that were
parts of Poland and Austria until they were forcibly annexed by the
Soviets in the 20th century.
In the country's east, most people speak Russian. In the west, most
speak Ukrainian and many despise Moscow. Successive governments have
sought closer relations with the European Union but have been unable
to wean their heavy Soviet-era industry off dependence on cheap
The past week brought the country to the verge of splitting, with
central authority vanishing altogether in the west, where
anti-Russian demonstrators seized government buildings and police
fled. Deaths in the capital cost Yanukovich support of wealthy
industrialists who previously backed him.
Yanukovich's fall would be a setback for Russian President Vladimir
Putin, who had made tying Ukraine into a Moscow-led Eurasian Union a
cornerstone of his efforts to reunite as much as possible of the
former Soviet Union. Putin had offered Yanukovich $15 billion in aid
after Yanukovich spurned an EU trade pact in November for closer
ties with Moscow.
Moscow has maintained that the protesters were terrorists and coup
plotters, denounced the West for supporting them and encouraged
Yanukovich to crush them.
"This is not democracy, this is anarchy and chaos. And we'll see
what comes out of it," Alexei Pushkov, head of Russia's State Duma
foreign affairs committee and a member of Putin's United Russia
party said after the deal was signed, though he said the pact would
be positive if it ended violence.
Washington, which shares Europe's aim of luring Ukraine towards the
West, took a back seat in the final phase of negotiations, its
absence noteworthy after a senior U.S. official was recorded using
an expletive to disparage EU diplomacy on an unsecured telephone
line last month.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to Putin by phone. The White House
said they agreed to help ensure the deal works.
The outlook for Ukraine's economy is dire and Russia has not made
clear whether it will still pay the promised $15 billion in aid.
Ukraine cancelled a planned issue of Eurobonds worth $2 billion on
Thursday. Kiev had hoped Russia would buy the bonds.
(Additional reporting by Matt Robinson and Richard Balmforth;
writing by Peter Graff; editing by Mark Heinrich and Alistair Lyon)
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