Ukraine appears divided over its political future following President Viktor Yanukovych’s impeachment. Parliament declared the embattled leader unable to carry out his duties and set May 25 as the date for new presidential elections. Yanukovych, reportedly, has fled from the capital Kiev only a day after a series of political compromises were agreed between his administration and members of opposition parties. Demonstrators continued their unrest in Maidan Square following the announcement of the deal, once again, calling for the president’s resignation. Yanukovych is believed to have gone to Kharkov, a city in eastern Ukraine, in which he still has support from the ethnic majority Russian population.
Local MPs and regional officials from eastern Ukraine gathered in Kharkov on Saturday, in response to the impending governmental collapse in Kiev. They were joined by many upper level Russian observers, including several governors of bordering regions and Aleksey Pushkov, the head of Russia’s parliamentary commission on foreign affairs. A resolution announced by the officials involved claimed that decisions by the national parliament, which included a decree to free jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, were taken under pressure from extremists threatening terror and violence.
It added that the territorial integrity of Ukraine was at risk, as were the nation’s nuclear power plants. The gathering concluded that regional officials should take full responsibility for their provinces without regard from the national government in Kiev, at least until constitutional order is restored. Even as demonstrators have reportedly taken over numerous presidential buildings in Kiev, following Yanukovych’s departure and impeachment, the president declared in a televised interview on Saturday that he still refuses to resign. He declared the parliament’s actions as illegal and unconstitutional.
The popular leader of the revolution, Vitali Klitschko, stated that millions of Ukrainians see early presidential elections as the only viable solution to the political crisis. Ukraine is divided over the political future of the country, because the pro-Russian eastern provinces are unlikely to support new presidential elections that would most likely put a pro-Western leader in office. Klitschko is considered to be a front runner, if such elections were to occur, and seems to have support from many officials in the European Union.
In a parliamentary session, important Yanukovych allies resigned from their positions. This included the speaker of parliament, who was hours later replaced by a member of the opposition. The new speaker assumed the duty of coordinating the executive office, until order is restored. Another opposition MP was given the duties of acting Interior Minister, while Yanukovych’s prosecutor general was removed from his post.
While Ukraine remains divided over its political future, demonstrators in Kiev have rejoiced over Yanukovych’s impeachment. Following days of escalated violence that left dozens dead, the concessions made by the controlling government did not appease the population. The agreement between Yanukovych and the opposition would have returned the constitution to its 2004 version, which had resulted from Ukraine’s last instance of social unrest, known as the Orange Revolution. Presidential elections were to commence following the implementation of this new constitution, but no later than this upcoming December. However, many Ukrainians believe that would have given Yanukovych too much time, and would rather immediately move to overhaul the political system.
By Peter Grazul