If there were an Olympic medal for a president who flees his office before protesters kill him, at least Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych is not far from Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics are winding down. Forced out of the office by MPs and departing Kiev under the cover of nightfall, his office has been left unguarded and a former Prime Minister (PM) Yulia Tymoshenko has urged protesters to continue their actions.
According to the BBC, the whereabouts of Yanukovych are not known and people who have been inside the presidential offices in Kiev state the offices are abandoned. Prior to his hurried departure, the president signed an agreement with opposition leaders to hold elections before the year was out.
His departure comes after two weeks of violence that has left the capital of Ukraine in shambles and more than 100 people dead. The encampment where protesters had assembled, known as the House of Trade Unions, was a burned-out shell from the fires, the streets are a shambles from the cobblestones having been made into missiles and the rain has made passage through the wrecked downtown area difficult.
It is unknown if Russia is assisting the president as he flees office, or if Yanukovych has sought refuge outside Ukraine. He made a television appearance shortly after his departure. The New York Times claims that the recording was made from the city of Kharkiv just inside the eastern border along Russia.
As noted by the Financial Times, the Orange Revolution that took place in 2004 was a massive protest that had nearly no victims. It was much different this time as it was learned that police snipers were responsible for many of the deaths. According to BBC reports, police and men in black started the fighting when they fired into protesters.
It was the second protest in 10 years, and this time it was against the president’s desire to be closer with Russia rather than with the European Union (EU). Reuters reported that Yanukovych, under pressure from Moscow, signaled his intent by walking away from a trade deal with the EU in November, prompting the peaceful protest. It was not until police blocked a major march toward the parliament building that widespread violence broke out.
In his wake, former PM Tymoshenko appears to be gaining popularity. The nemesis to Yanukovych, she was jailed in 2011 and released this weekend. She is wheelchair bound but has already appeared in public to speak to the protestors. Although some people were upset and walked away as she spoke, the vast majority of people appeared to be happy.
Although Yanukovych claims it is a violent coup that has removed him from office, it was only hours after he abandoned Kiev that he was formally removed by the parliament. The city’s police are nowhere to be seen and the violence has stopped. Despite the opportunity, no looting has been reported and even the president’s palace remains intact.
In the wake of abandoning his office in the capitol, the president claims he will not leave Ukraine, but it is yet to be seen if he flees to Moscow.
By Randall Fleming
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