Ukraine protesters take Kiev; president says coup

Posted By: PTI
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Kiev, Feb 22: Protesters on Saturday took control of Ukraine's capital, seizing the president's office as parliament voted to remove him and hold new elections. President Viktor Yanukovych described the events as a coup and insisted he would not step down. After a tumultuous week that left scores dead and Ukraine's political destiny in flux, fears mounted that the country could split in two.

The Ukrainian parliament called early elections for May 25, but the president said he would not recognise any of the lawmakers' decisions as valid. Yanukovych left Kiev for his support base in the country's Russian-speaking east, where lawmakers questioned the legitimacy of the newly empowered parliament and called for volunteer militias to uphold order.

President Yanukovych said it was a coup and insisted he would not step down

"They are trying to scare me. I have no intention to leave the country. I am not going to resign, I'm the legitimately elected president," Yanukovych said in a televised statement, clearly shaken and with long pauses in his speaking. "Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and banditry and a coup d'etat," he said. "I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed." The country's western regions, angered by corruption in Yanukovych's government, want to be closer to the European Union and have rejected Yanukovych's authority in many cities.

Eastern Ukraine, which accounts for the bulk of the nation's economic output, favours closer ties with Russia and has largely supported the president. The three-month protest movement was prompted by the president's decision to abort an agreement with the EU in favour of a deal with Moscow. "A dictator has been overthrown," said protester Anatoly Sumchinsky, among thousands gathered on Kiev's Independence Square cheering a huge screen broadcasting a parliamentary debate.

"We stood for our right to live in a different Ukraine. It's a victory." Today's developments were the result of a European- brokered peace deal between the president and opposition. But Yanukovych today said he would not sign any of the measures passed by parliament over the past two days as a result of that deal.


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