News / Europe

Daughter: Ukraine Opposition Leader Tymoshenko to be Released Soon

People discuss in front of a poster showing jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in central Kyiv, Feb. 22, 2014.
People discuss in front of a poster showing jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in central Kyiv, Feb. 22, 2014.
VOA News
The Ukrainian parliament has voted to free jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko - President Viktor Yanukovych's arch-rival. Her daughter said Tymoshenko was already free under Ukrainian law but still in the hospital where she has been held for treatment.

Protesters seized the Kiev office of President Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday and his whereabouts were a mystery, as the pro-Russian leader's grip on power rapidly eroded following bloodshed in the Ukrainian capital.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko on Saturday called on President Yanukovych to resign so that new elections can be held no later than May.

  • Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko (C) is transported on a wheelchair upon her arrival at the airport in Kyiv, Feb. 22, 2014.
  • Members of Berkut anti-riot unit prepare to leave their barracks in Kyiv. The heads of four Ukrainian security bodies, including the police's Berkut anti-riot units, appeared in parliament and declared they would not take part in any conflict with the people.
  • Yevgenia Tymoshenko (R) reacts as the Parliament voted to free her mother, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, during a session in Kyiv.
  • Anti-government protesters stand guard in front of the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv. Protesters took control of the capital and parliament and sought to oust the president.
  • Protesters ride atop of what appears to be a military truck, in central Kyiv.
  • Protesters stand guard in front of presidential administrative building in central Kyiv.
  • People discuss in front of a poster showing jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in central Kyiv.
  • Ukrainian opposition leader and head of the UDAR (Punch) party Vitaly Klitschko (L) greets anti-government protesters outside the parliament building in Kyiv.
  • A suspected supporter of Ukraine's embattled President Viktor Yanukovych, center, is assaulted by anti-government protesters in Kyiv.
  • A protester waves an EU flag at the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's country residence in Mezhyhirya.
  • Anti-government protesters stand in a line outside the Ukrainian Parliament building in Kyiv.
  • Ukrainian opposition leader and head of the UDAR (Punch) party Vitaly Klitschko (C, front) talks to his colleagues, with newly elected speaker of parliament Oleksander Turchynov (R, top) seen in the background, during a session of the parliament in Kyiv.
  • Two women prepare to place flowers on a wall in the Independence Square in Kyiv.
  • People carry the coffin of a protester, who was killed after days of violence, during a funeral service in Kyiv.
  • Anti-government protesters attack a deputy of the Party of Regions Vitaly Grushevsky (2nd L, front) outside the Ukrainian Parliament building in Kyiv.
  • Protesters march towards government buildings in central Kyiv.
  • Protesters gather in the Independence square in central Kyiv. Protesters claimed full control of the city following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation's three-month political crisis.

Elsewhere, parliament has elected a new speaker who is a longtime ally of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Oleksandr Turchynov was elected speaker Saturday, a day after lawmakers voted to amend a law that could result in Tymoshenko's release.

The new parliament speaker was elected shortly after pro-government speaker Volodymyr Rybak submitted his resignation Saturday, citing ill health.

Thousands of protesters remained in Kyiv's Independence Square, objecting to a deal signed Friday by Ukraine's president and the opposition aimed at ending the country's political crisis.

Many protesters continue to demand the immediate resignation of President  Yanukovych.  

Watch: RFE/RL's Live Stream from Kyiv

"Very fragile" deal

The United States says the deal is "very, very fragile" and needs global support.  A State Department official said the agreement will be a "tough sell" to the opposition in the streets because of the recent violence and deaths.

U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday to talk about Ukraine. A White House official said both leaders agree on the need to quickly implement the deal and encourage all sides to avoid violence.

Friday's agreement returns Ukraine to its 2004 constitution, limiting presidential powers. The deal also includes setting up a coalition government and early elections.

Protests erupted in Ukraine in November when President Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia.

The protests began peacefully but sank into violence earlier this month, leaving nearly 100 people dead, including some protesters shot in the head by police snipers.

World reaction

A U.N. spokesperson says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon phoned Ukrainian President Yanukovych to personally welcome Friday's agreement. The official says Ban commends the spirit of compromise.

Foreign ministers from France, Germany and Poland helped broker the deal.

Along with early elections, the agreement would replace Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko, who the opposition blames for the deaths of protesters.  It amends the criminal code to allow the release of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison.

Ukraine is split between those in the east who favor ties with Russia, and those in the west who lean towards the European Union.

President Obama is downplaying suggestions that Ukraine is a battlefield in a new Cold War with Russia. He said this week that the U.S. wants to make sure the people of Ukraine are able to make their own decision about the future.

A State Department official says the U.S., Europe, Russia and Ukraine all have shared interests.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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