The Ukranian parliament has voted to speed up the release of ex-premier and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko from jail. Parliament has also elected several Tymoshenko allies to leadership positions.
During an emergency session of parliament on Saturday, lawmakers voted to speed up the release of opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. This follows a vote Friday to restore a constitution that curbs the president’s power and changes the legal code to allow Tymoshenko, President Viktor Yanukovych’s arch-rival, to go free.
Earlier in the session, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged lawmakers to pass a resolution calling on President Yanukovych to "immediately" resign over this week's use of deadly police force that killed more than 70 protesters.
He also took to Twitter to call for early elections to be set for no later than May 25.
On Friday, President Yanukovych and opposition leaders - including Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleh Tyahnybok - signed a breakthrough deal aimed at ending months of political instability. The deal foresees the implementation of key political reforms including provisions to carry out constitutional reforms by September, paving the way for elections by December 2014.
The pact was brokered by an envoy of three European foreign ministers - Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Poland's Radoslaw Sikorsi and Laurent Fabius of France.
Despite the deal, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have remained on Kyiv's Independence Square, the site of mass protests over the past three months.
During Saturday's session, parliament elected Arsen Avakov as interim interior minister, replacing Vitaly Zakharchenko who was blamed for ordering police to open fire on protesters. Avakov is a strong ally of the jailed Tymoshenko.
Parliament also elected opposition loyalist Alexander Turtshinov as parliament speaker after pro-government speaker Volodymyr Rybak stepped down citing health problems.
Turtshinov helped co-founded the opposition Fatherland party with Tymoshenko.
Yanukovych in the east
Vitali Klitschko, a heavyweight boxing champion turned politician, also told the session that Yanukovych has “left the capital.”
According to media reports, the president's residence outside the capital was empty and unguarded and journalists were entering freely.
The president's office has confirmed Yanukovych is visiting the city of Kharkiv, a city in Ukraine's east which is the heart of his support.
Meanwhile, in a statement on its website Saturday, the interior ministry said Ukraine's police stands by its citizens and wants "rapid changes."
"Let us join forces and for the creation of a truly independent, democratic and legal European state," it added.
hc/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)