Ukrainian Opposition Takes Control as President Reportedly Flees Kiev
Only a day after opposition leaders tentatively signed an EU-backed deal to try to end the escalating crisis in Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych reportedly fled Kiev Saturday, with the opposition claiming control of the presidential palace and parts of the capital. Opposition parliament members quickly voted to free the jailed former prime minister — and opposition leader — Yulia Tymoshenko, as Vitali Klitschko, one of opposition leaders who signed yesterday's deal, called for new presidential elections to take place by the end of May.Furthering fears of possible civil war, the Ukrainian opposition took control of Kiev's government district Saturday morning, with the country's police calling for "rapid changes" and promising to stand "with the people." Protestors managed to break into Yanukovych's official and residential buildings, as Parliament voted for Tymoshenko to be immediately let out of jail and debated an opposition bill demanding Yanukovych's resignation. The Ukrainian president, however, was nowhere to be found, with aides saying he's made his way to Russia-adjacent Kharkhiv.
"Today he left the capital," said Klitschko, leader of the UDAR opposition party, after submitting his resolution calling for Yanukovych's resignation. "Millions of Ukrainians see only one choice — early presidential and parliamentary elections."
The unrest of course began back in November, after the Ukrainian president, under pressure from Moscow, changed his mind about signing a political and trade agreement with the European Union. As these things usually go, smaller pro-EU protests turned into large-scale violence after a brutal police crackdown on demonstrators: soon, the people's biggest demand was that Yanukovych go, and quickly.
It's still unclear what Yanukovych's split Satuday will mean for Ukraine — although some have seen it as a clear sign that the current government is about to collapse, other reports are suggesting that the president unwilling to give up his power-seat and is now labeling the opposition's move a "coup." Only time will tell whether today's rapid changes will mean an end of the last few months of tension, or if this will turn into another Egypt.