Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukraine Prime Minister, was freed from custody on Saturday. She took the time to address protesters and thank them for releasing Ukraine from what she described as President Yanukovych’s malignant reign. The speech was delivered in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, and thousands of protesters applauded the former Prime Minister. The Square itself has seen its share of bloodshed. This week alone, 82 people were killed in what was described as the most violence seen in Ukraine’s 22 years of statehood. Tymoshenko was emotional as she commemorated the public for fighting bravely against Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev after he learned of protesters taking over the streets and government building.
The protesters eventually did reach his property yesterday and many could not believe what they saw as they gazed upon his luxury estate and huge mansion which had been kept relatively hidden from the public for obvious reasons; the average salary in Ukraine is $500 a month and for the protesters to walk into his property and see exotic ostriches roaming around Yanukovych’s garden was quite a shock. The property apparently had a helicopter pad as well as a golf course. The amount of luxury displayed will never be experienced by most Ukrainians, or many people, in their lives. The protesters celebrated their victory and even mocked Yanukovych by putting up signs on his property saying “Ukraine Disneyland.”
From her wheelchair, the newly freed Tymoshenko told the crowd that she was proud of her fellow Ukrainians, saying that they are the best of Ukraine and no other country could do what they have done. Her praise also came with a warning, telling the protesters not to leave the Square until the job is finished. While Tymoshenko applauded Ukraine, Yanukovych feel very different. He compared the recent developments to the movement of the Nazi regime in Germany and said how his car was shot at but he does not feel fear, instead he feels sorry for his country. Yanukovych believes that the decision to remove him from his position is an invalid one, calling it a “coup d’etat.” Just a day before he fled Kiev, Yanukovych had signed a document with protest leaders that cut some of his political power and called for early elections to be held May 25 of this year.
Yanukovych and Tymoshenko have had their share of public battles over the last decade. Parliament voted to release Tymoshenko from prison on Friday, a decision that came two years after she was sentenced seven years for abusing her power when negotiating prices of natural gas with Russia in 2009. That sentence came with mixed reactions as some claimed she had harmed Ukraine’s interests and deserved the sentence, while others claimed she was a political prisoner.
Yanukovych had been voted out of power by Parliament and is reported to have fled to Kharkiv, a city residing closer to the Russian border. It is believed that Yanukovych has more support there which is the main reason for the abrupt move to that particular city. The world’s reaction of the events of yesterday is cautious optimism. The White House echoed the sentiments of many regarding the release of the former Prime Minister, by releasing a statement yesterday. They stated that they have constantly hoped for a decrease in violence, a coalition government, and “today’s developments could move us closer to that goal.” With Yulia Tymoshenko free again, there is a growing contingent of people in the Ukraine who believe that the nation will have a better chance at peace. Others, however, are waiting more cautiously to see how events unfold.
By Lian Morrison