In a stunning turn of events from the week's violence, the Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych has fled Kiev for the eastern city of Kharkov. Reports are coming in fast and furious, but here are some snippets:
Some updates from the Guardian:
-Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from custody in Kharkiv and is expected to fly to Kiev.
Meanwhile, in Kharkov,
-The parliament has impeaced [sic] President Viktor Yanukovych and called for elections on May 25
-Some eastern cities have declared their support for the new government although Yanukovych said there was a coup in Kiev
-Britain, Poland and other EU countries have declared their support for the new government while Russia attacked the demonstrators who formed it as “extremists and pogromists”.
He was in the eastern city of Kharkiv, where governors, provincial officials and legislators gathered alongside top Russian lawmakers and approved a statement calling on regional authorities to take full responsibility for constitutional order.
Some called for the formation of volunteer militias to defend against protesters from western regions, even as they urged army units to maintain neutrality and protect ammunition depots.The congress of provincial lawmakers and officials in Kharkiv issued a statement saying that the events in Kyiv have led to the “paralysis of the central government and destabilization of the situation in the country.” Lawmakers accused the opposition of failing to keep its word to give up its weapons and abandon protest camps.
Outside, thousands of anti-Yanukovych protesters chanted “Ukraine is not Russia!” — a surprising development given that large anti-Yanukovych protests have been rare in the east.
And what's more important, the Security Forces are on the side of the opposition now, and the army will not interfere.
Reuters reports that the heads of four Ukrainian security branches appeared in parliament on Saturday and vowed not to take part in any conflict with the people.
More from Reuters:
Members of the Ukrainian parliament, which decisively abandoned Yanukovich after this week's bloodshed, stood, applauded and sang the national anthem after it declared the president constitutionally unable to carry out his duties and set an early election for May 25.
Moments later, opposition leader Tymoshenko waved to supporters from a car as she was driven out of the hospital in the northeastern city if Kharkiv, where she has been treated for a bad back while serving a seven-year sentence since 2011.
The newly-installed interior minister declared that the police now stood with demonstrators they had fought for days, when central Kiev became a war zone."The cabinet of ministers and ministry of finance are working normally," the cabinet said in a statement. "The current government will provide a fully responsible transfer of power under the constitution and legislation."
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who negotiated concessions from Yanukovich with other European Union foreign ministers in a deal on Friday, said the changes were not a coup, and that the government buildings had been abandoned.
Ukrainian military and police leaders said they would not get involved in any internal conflict. The interior ministry responsible for the police said it served "exclusively the Ukrainian people and fully shares their strong desire for speedy change".
"The organs of the Interior Ministry have crossed to the side of the protesters, the side of the people," new Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told Ukraine's Channel 5 TV.
In Russia, Mikhail Margelov, head of the foreign policy committee of the upper house of parliament, said the Kharkiv meeting proved "that the Maidan and the opposition, let alone the militants, are not the majority of the Ukrainian people."
But the head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's lower house, Alexei Pushkov, seemed to acknowledge that Yanukovich's rule was finished. "He fled. Security fled. Staff fled," Pushkov said. "A sad end to the president."
With Yanukovych and the Eastern Bosses consolidating control in their areas, and with them working closely with Russian officials, the very real danger of an invasion by Putin or a breakup of the country still remains. And there are still the matter of the elections in May. Will they be on the up and up or will Putin have a hand in those as well?
Stay tuned to this fluid and volatile situation
UPDATE 1: Julia Tymoshenko speaks to journalists after being freed:
UPDATE 2: Statement from William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary:
Today I am in close touch with key partners over the extraordinary developments in Ukraine. Events in the last 24 hours show the will of Ukrainians to move towards a different future, and ensure that the voices of those who have protested courageously over several months are heard.”
We will work closely with our EU partners in support of a new government in Ukraine, as and when that is formed.
In the meantime it is important that Ukraine’s political leaders respond to events calmly and with determination to harness the united efforts of all Ukrainians to work together for a successful future.