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Ukrainian president leaves Kiev as parliament votes to remove him from power

Ukrainian president leaves Kiev as parliament votes to remove him from power

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Reports out of Ukraine suggest that president Viktor Yanukovych has left the capital of Kiev in the past day, heading for the eastern part of the country that has been a stronghold of support since he opted to strengthen relations with Russia rather than pursuing close ties with the European Union last year. The move prompted protests that have accelerated considerably in recent weeks, turning deadly as protestors battled government forces in the city. Over 70 people have been killed so far.

What's next for Kiev?

Yanukovych had signed an EU-brokered peace deal with the opposition just yesterday that, among other things, had guaranteed new elections by December — but protestors are demanding they happen much sooner than that. "Millions of Ukrainians see only one choice: early presidential and parliamentary elections," opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko is quoted as saying.

What's next for Kiev and the government of Ukraine is unclear, but Yanukovych's departure suggests that a dissolution of the current government could indeed happen sooner than December. Barring a peaceful middle ground between two deeply divided factions, it's conceivable that the country could be divided into pro-Russia and pro-EU states — but in the short term, simply stopping the violence is the top priority for lawmakers and mediators from neighbors including France, Germany, Russia, and Poland.

Update: Reuters reports that imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed as Ukrainian parliament has voted to remove Yanukovich from power. According to photographer in Kiev, the former prime minister waved to supporters as she left the hospital where she'd been under prison guard since 2011. Her release follows a vote in Ukraine's parliament yesterday that ultimately ruled in her favor.