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Yanukovich Abandons Kiev Compound, Opposition Demands Vote by May

Anti-government protesters attack a deputy of the Party of Regions Vitaly Grushevsky outside the Ukrainian Parliament building in Kiev

Kiev – Protesters seized the Kiev office of President Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday and the opposition demanded a new election be held by May, as the pro-Russian leader’s grip on power rapidly eroded following bloodshed in the capital. Anti-government demonstrators entered Yanukovich’s compound in the capital and were controlling the entrance, a Reuter’s reporter said at the scene. Security guards were present inside the building but were not trying to expel the protesters.

The president’s residence outside the capital appeared to have been abandoned. Local media said protesters entered the sprawling grounds but it was unclear whether they were inside the building. Interfax said some security guards were present. A security source said the president was still in Ukraine but was unable to confirm whether he was in Kiev.

Yanukovich, who enraged much of the population by turning away from the European Union to build closer ties with Russia three months ago, made sweeping concessions in a deal brokered by European diplomats on Friday after days of violence that killed 77 people, with central Kiev resembling a war zone.

But the deal, which called for early elections by the end of the year, was not enough to satisfy demonstrators, who want him out immediately after bloodshed that saw his police snipers shooting from rooftops. Parliament has quickly acted to implement the deal, voting to restore a constitution that curbs the president’s powers and to change the legal code possibly allowing his arch-adversary, jailed opposition leader YuliaTymoshenko, to go free.

The speaker of parliament, a Yanukovich loyalist, resigned and parliament on Saturday elected OleksanderTurchynov, a close ally of Tymoshenko, as his replacement. Events were moving at a rapid pace that could see a decisive shift in the future of a country of 46 million people away from Moscow’s orbit and closer to the West, although Ukraine is near bankruptcy and depends on Russian aid to pay its debt. (Reuters)

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