Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, released from jail early on Saturday, acted quickly to secure opposition support — announcing plans to run for president and later, while addressing a crowd of tens of thousands of protesters in the capital Kiev, urging them to remain in Independence Square, the epicenter of anti-government protest, until all their demands are met.
Tymoshenko’s appeal to the crowd came shortly after the Ukranian parliament voted Saturday to dismiss embattled President Viktor Yanukovich and hold new elections on May 25.
The vote against Yanukovich took place hours after anti-government protesters seized his office in Kiev. The president had insisted earlier in the day that he would not step down, even as his grip on power appeared to be rapidly crumbling. The latest developments followed two days of violence that turned central Kiev into a battle zone and left at least 77 people dead.
The military said it would not get involved in trying to stamp out the uprising, after protesters entered Yanukovich's office compound.
The president's residence outside the capital also appeared to have been abandoned. Local media said protesters had entered the sprawling grounds, but it was unclear whether they were inside the main building. Interfax, a Russian news agency, said some security guards were present.
Thousands of protesters on Kiev's Independence Square celebrated just after the parliamentary vote was announced Saturday. The protesters had been skeptical of a European Union-brokered accord under which the embattled leader agreed to give up powers, hold early elections by the end of the year and form a government of national unity.