KYIV - After more than a week of street protests, Ukraine’s parliament has debated and voted on a no confidence motion by Ukraine’s opposition. But the hope of protesters, who chanted outside the parliament, were dashed, as the government defeated the move for a vote of no confidence.
The vote extended the most serious political confrontation seen here since the Orange Revolution of 2004.
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But Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, evidently felt secure enough Tuesday to fly out of the country. He embarked on a four-day visit to China, leaving behind a nation divided.
Thousands of protesters besieged the parliament, banging drums and chanting for his resignation. One named Paul, a 50-year-old religious worker, says he was motivated by widespread corruption.
“Our government and our officials, they deceive people! They say they will work for improving life, but they work for improving their own lives," he said.
Inside parliament, Udar Party leader Vitali Klitschko hammered on the corruption theme. He demanded dismissal of the government. He warned Prime Minister Mykola Azarov:
“Do not drive yourself and the country into a corner. Do not share the lot of dictators who fled their countries forever," said in Ukrainian Klitschko, a former boxer.
In response, Prime Minister Azarov accused Ukraine’s previous government of bankrupting the country by signing a 10-year contract to buy Russian gas at ruinously high prices.
Speaking in Russian, the prime minister said this contract “virtually brought Ukraine to its knees and drained its financial economic system.”
When the vote came, lawmakers followed party lines, defeating the motion by 40 votes.
By nightfall, thousands of protesters gathered again on Ukraine’s Maidan or Independence Square, just the way they did almost a decade ago during the Orange Revolution.
“This Maidan is more radical than the first Maidan, so people will not go home," said Paul.
Before nightfall, behind their barricades, protesters were seen carrying boxes of gas masks, spools of barbed wire and stacks of orange helmets.