Yulia Tymoshenko freed, Yanukovych refused to resign
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from prison today after serving 30 months of a seven-year sentence for abuse of power relating to a gas deal with Russia.
Supporters of Tymoshenko, a high-profile leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, argued that the charges were baseless and the prosecution was politically-motivated and pursued by her rival, President Viktor Yanukovych. The U.S. and European Union have repeatedly called on Yanukovych to release Tymoshenko.
But yesterday, the Ukrainian Parliament – Verkhovna Rada – voted to release Tymoshenko after three days of deadly violence in Kiev’s Maidan Square, where at least 75 people were reportedly killed – many by sniper fire – and hundreds were injured in clashes between opposition protesters and police.
Tymoshenko’s daughter, Eugenia, thanked supporters for helping secure her mother’s release.
“I want to thank everyone who stood on Maidan these three months and fought for Ukraine’s freedom,” said Eugenia Tymoshenko. “I am grateful for your assistance – you helped free my mother. This is a very emotional time for our family, our team and all Ukrainians. I am grateful to the heroes of Ukraine. We mourn the dead heroes.”
After her release, it is highly likely that Tymoshenko will challenge Yanukovych for the presidency given that the agreement called for early elections to be held “no later than December 2014”.
However, Yanukovych maintained Saturday that bills passed by the Rada outside of Friday’s agreement to restore the 2004 Constitution and form a temporary coalition government are “unlawful”.
“The decisions they are now taking are unlawful. I won’t sign anything,” Yanukovych said in an interview with UBR-TV. “These are not opposition-minded people. These are gangsters…Lawmakers are beaten, stoned, intimidated at the parliament building’s exit.”
Seizing Yanukovych’s absence from Kiev, on Saturday, 328 members of the Rada voted to remove Yanukovych from office – in violation of Friday’s agreement – and scheduled early elections for May 25, 2014.
“Given that Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych has restrained himself from performing his constitutional duties, which threatens the government of the state, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, large-scale violation of human rights and freedoms of citizens, and based on the circumstances of extreme urgency, the Verkhova Rada of Ukraine, has decided to remove Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych from office for neglecting his constitutional duties and scheduled and early presidential election in Ukraine for May 25, 2014,” said Oleksandr Turchynov, the newly-elected Rada speaker.
Yanukovych, who was visiting the Russian stronghold of Kharkiv on Saturday, said he will not resign and will stay in Ukraine.
“Everyday, I’ll inform the public what [we’re going] to do next…[I’ll] stay on the territory of Ukraine. I’ll urge all international monitors, all intermediaries, who were involved in this political conflict, for them to stop the thugs. This is not an opposition; these are thugs,” Yanukovych said.
Yanukovych’s Party of Region has lost a significant number of members in the Parliament in recent days.
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