Freed Yulia Tymoshenko addresses crowds in Kiev as President Viktor Yanukovych flees in face of popular uprising http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/10655995/Yulia-Tymoshenko-praises-Kiev-protesters-as-revolution-forces-president-from-power.html
By David Blair, and Roland Oliphant in Kiev
7:27PM GMT 22 Feb 2014
Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister, addressed a vast crowd in Kiev’s Independence Square after leaving prison following the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych by a popular revolution on the streets of the capital.
So frail that she was unable to rise from her wheelchair, the former prime minister told the protesters they had brought down a dictatorship. Her voice carried across the cold night as she addressed the 50,000 strong crowd, many waving the country's blue and yellow flag.
“The heroes of the Maidan [Independence Square] are our saviours and the saviours of Ukraine," she cried. “You are the heroes This is a country of free people, this is your victory,” she said. “No one will escape justice, we have to bring to justice anyone who shot the heroes of Maidan
The United States welcomed the release of Mrs Tymoshenko, 53, and pledged to work with Russia and European and international organizations to support a unified and democratic Ukraine.
Mrs Tymoshenko had walked free from detention to hail the “end of dictatorship” on Saturday, hours after protesters had advanced from their stronghold in the centre of the capital to take control of parliament, the presidency and the cabinet office.
Police melted away and offered no resistance. Mr Yanukovych fled Kiev and sought refuge in his political heartland of eastern Ukraine.
As he made his exit, which is thought to have taken place under cover of darkness on Friday, Ms Tymoshenko, headed for Kiev. She has suffered severe back problems during her 2½ years in prison, forcing her to speak from the wheelchair. She appeared close to exhaustion but made a powerful speech in full voice.
When she arrived in the square, she was greeted by a roar. Mrs Tymoshenko said that police snipers who had “put bullet in the heart of the protesters” had also put a bullet "in the heart of all Ukrainian people". When she added there would be punishment for the snipers, the audience roared approval.
She asked the crowd to stay on the Maidan until all their goals had been achieved.
“Its not politicians or diplomats who made this happen, it’s you the people who stayed here who changed the situation. You are heroes, you are the best of Ukraine.” The former prime minister, who was jailed on trumped up charges of abuse of office in 2011, was released from detention in hospital on the orders of parliament.
As she left hospital, Ms Tymoshenko declared: “Our homeland will, from today on, be able to see the sun and sky as a dictatorship has ended.” She later added: “I am sure that Ukraine will be a member of the European Union in the near future and this will change everything.”
She arrived in the capital in the evening, and was tearfully reunited with her daughter, Eugenia.
Ms Tymoshenko is expected to be a contender for the presidency in a post-revolutionary election fixed for May 25.
The former prime minister’s release ended a transformational day for Ukraine. After a confrontation lasting almost three months – and a week during which at least 70 demonstrators were shot dead in the heart of Kiev – Mr Yanukovych’s resolve appears to have cracked. With his enemies still in control of Independence Square and large areas of the capital, he threw in the towel between 6pm and 11pm on Friday.
Afterwards, the protesters surged forwards and took control of the key arms of government. Demonstrators stood guard outside Mr Yanukovych’s old office yesterday. They acted with the full co-operation of senior security officials.
“We have found words which each side can understand. Life continues – we should work and we should live,” said Col Mykolai Kolodayzhnyi, the deputy head of security for the presidential administration.
The protesters promised to safeguard the buildings under their control and there was no sign of looting nor damage. Parliament, firmly in the protesters’ hands, went into emergency session and voted for Mrs Tymoshenko’s release.
A visibly exhausted Mr Yanukovych appeared on television from an undisclosed location at 2pm. Wearing a black suit and tie, with a candle burning on a table by his side, he said: “I have no intention to leave the country. I am not going to resign; I'm the legitimately elected president.”
Mr Yanukovych claimed to be the victim of a coup d’état masterminded by “bandits” and “Nazis”. He added: “What is going on today is vandalism, banditry. What will I do next? I’ll do everything to protect my country from the split and to stop bloodshed. I don’t know still how I will do it.”
He said he wouldl go to the Russian-speaking south-east of Ukraine, describing this area as “less dangerous”. He accused his fellow Ukrainians of succumbing to a “panic” that “swept normal people at the west, east and in the centre”. Mr Yanukovych also said the proceedings in parliament were “illegal”, adding: “They should hear from me: I won’t sign anything with bandits who terrorise the entire country, the Ukrainian people.”
Within an hour, parliament had delivered its riposte. It voted to remove Mr Yanukovych from office with a majority of 328, and called for a new presidential election.
The heads of the four main security agencies had appeared before parliament earlier, promising not to intervene in the demonstrations.
Many protesters want the deposed president and his allies to be held accountable for the bloodshed in Kiev. On Thursday alone, at least 29 people were shot dead in the capital, making it the bloodiest day in the history of Ukraine as an independent state.
There was no jubilation on Independence Square after Mr Yanukovych fled the capital. Instead, tens of thousands of people mourned for the dead. A stage displayed photographs of 33 people who were killed this week, and coffins were borne through the crowd as people broke down and wept.
Many protesters wanted not only to remove Mr Yanukovych, but to turn Ukraine into a prosperous European democracy. “It’s too early to talk about victory,” said Sergeiy Gavrilov, 36. “We will find out in the future if it’s victory or not because we want a lot of changes in our country.”
Protesters who overran Mr Yanukovych’s country residence, 15 miles outside the capital, found his mansion abandoned. In contrast to the sombre mood on the Maidan, thousands of people toured the grounds in a holiday atmosphere. Protesters played golf with Mr Yanukovych’s clubs and hoisted Ukrainian flags on the masts of a mock galleon that was moored on a river.
Ukraine occupies a crucial strategic position between Russia and the EU. The protests began last November, after Mr Yanukovych rejected an association agreement with the EU in favour of accepting a $15 billion (£9.5 billion) loan from Russia.
The Kremlin believes that the protest movement amounts to a plot by Western governments to retaliate for this decision.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, challenged his Western counterparts yesterday to condemn the “rampages” of the opposition.