Ukraine crisis: Live Report

20:45 GMT - We are now wrapping up this Live Report after a historic day for Ukraine which leaves many questions about the country's future still to be answered.

Here's a recap of today's events:

-Parliament voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovych and hold presidential elections on May 25;

-Opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison and addressed some 50,000 people at Independence Square, paying an emotional tribute to those who died in the protests;

-Yanukovych was blocked from taking a plane to Russia and is somewhere in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk, according to parliament's speaker.

Many opposition protesters are hopeful of lasting change in Ukraine tonight but the situation is still highly uncertain after a week which left nearly 100 people dead, with funerals continuing.

Keep following AFP's regular coverage to see how this major story develops.

20:25 GMT - 'I'm glad she's free!' - US Senator John McCain, Republican presidential nominee in 2008, hails Tymoshenko's comments.

"Stirring speech by Yulia Tymoshenko at the Maidan - I'm glad she's free!" he tweets @SenJohnMcCain.

20:18 GMT - Tymoshenko fan - "We are here for Yulia, we've always supported her. The other opposition leaders can be her deputies but she's the real leader," says Victoria, a housewife who came to hear Tymoshenko's speech.

19:58 GMT - Tymoshenko speaks - She resumes her speech to say: "I'm coming back to work. Not a single second will I miss so you will be happier. Glory to Ukraine."

19:58 GMT - Tymoshenko speaks - She resumes her speech to say: "I'm coming back to work. Not a single second will I miss so you will be happier. Glory to Ukraine."

19:50 GMT - Tymoshenko speaks - The speech has been interrupted as ambulance crews go into the crowd to pull out someone who has fallen sick.

19:42 GMT - 'Ukrainians must determine their own future' - We'll just briefly interrupt those words from Tymoshenko to give you the full quotes from the White House.

"We wish her a speedy recovery as she seeks the appropriate medical treatment that she has long needed and sought," a statement said, adding: "The unshakeable principle guiding events must be that the people of Ukraine determine their own future."

19:39 GMT - Tymoshenko speaks - Tymoshenko says protestors should not leave the square until Ukraine sees real change.

She said she regrets she could not be at Independence Square to stop the killing of protestors.

19:33 GMT - Tymoshenko speaks - Speaking from a wheelchair in front of some 50,000 people, a clearly emotional Tymoshenko is greeted by chanting from the crowds.

"Heroes don't die, they're always with us and they always will be our inspiration," she says, according to a BBC translation of her words.




19:05 GMT - Tymoshenko in Kiev - The Kyiv Post newspaper reports on its Twitter feed (@KyivPost) that Tymoshenko has laid flowers at the spot where protesters died during clashes with police in January and is now heading to the Maidan protest site.

It quotes her as saying: "I want to go home to Maidan."

18:32 GMT - Russian TV focuses on Sochi - AFP's Anna Malpas says Russia's Channel 1 television is focusing on the Sochi Winter Olympics, not the situation in Ukraine.

"Ukraine isn't number one news story! Biathlon is," she tweets @malpasanna.

"Channel 1 calls Ukraine situation 'strange', no words of support for Yanukovych, says 'critics blame West'".

17:57 GMT - Kiev crowds - Vast crowds on the chilly streets of Kiev this evening as people wait for Tymoshenko to come and speak at Independence Square.

She is thought to be on her way now.

17:43 GMT - 'Grander than Gaddafi's' - Yanukovych's lavish compound in Kiev, which protesters got into earlier, is still provoking plenty of discussion on social media.

BBC correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse (@ggatehouse) tweets: "I saw Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli. Admittedly it had been utterly trashed. But it wasn't as opulent as Yanukovich's. Yanuk had a galleon!"

17:25 GMT - Appeal for calm - British Foreign Secretary William Hague says his country will work with a new government in Ukraine once it is formed.

"Events in the last 24 hours show the will of Ukrainians to move towards a different future and ensure that the voices of those who have protested courageously over several months are heard," Hague said in a statement.

"We will work closely with our EU partners in support of a new government in Ukraine, as and when that is formed.

"In the meantime it is important that Ukraine's political leaders respond to events calmly and with determination to harness the united efforts of all Ukrainians to work together for a successful future."

17:07 GMT - Yanukovych flight bid - President Viktor Yanukovych has been blocked from flying to Russia by Ukraine's border police and is now thought to be in eastern Russia, the new parliament speaker has said.

"He tried to take a plane to Russia but he was blocked in doing so by border police. He is currently hiding somewhere in the Donetsk region," Oleksandr Turchyno was quoted as saying by Ukrainian news agency Interfax.

17:00 GMT - EU reaction - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (@BarrosoEU) tweets: "Welcome release of Tymoschenko. Independent justice system essential for a democratic Ukraine."


16:40 GMT - Lenin statues toppled - Statues of Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin are being pulled down in some Ukrainian cities amid today's turmoil, according to media reports.

Ukrainian media said statues had been toppled in in the pro-Russian cities of Dnipropetrovsk and Potava. The BBC is running footage on its website showing protesters destroying statues in Bila Tserkva, Khmelnitsky and Zhytomyr.

Communist icon Lenin is still seen as a symbol of Russian political power. A statue of him was previously downed in Kiev in December.

16:27 GMT - 'Dictatorship has fallen' - Tymoshenko says: "The dictatorship has fallen," in a statement released on her official website.

"It fell thanks to those people who came out to defend themselves, their families and their country."

hl2:Tymoshenko says 'dictatorship has fallen'

16:10 GMT - Pro-EU - Tymoshenko champions closer ties with the European Union, like the demonstrators who have been occupying Kiev's Independence Square for the last few months.

Members of her Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party were at the heart of protests which started when Yanukovych rejected an agreement which would have led to closer European ties last November.

16:06 GMT - Tymoshenko's past - Tymoshenko -- nicknamed the Iron Lady like Britain's Margaret Thatcher, one of her heroines -- was jailed on charges of abusing her power in a 2009 gas deal signed with Russia while she was premier.

She was one of the leaders of Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution that forced the annulment of presidential elections initially said to have been won by Yanukovych but later awarded to Viktor Yushchenko.

She challenged Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election but lost a run-off.

Tymoshenko was then targeted by a string of criminal investigations which she said aimed to eliminate her from politics.

15:53 GMT - Tymoshenko released, heads for square - Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released, witnessed by one of our correspondents.

Tymoshenko waved to her supporters as she was driven out of a hospital where she was under guard while being treated for severe back injury.

She is now heading for Independence Square in Kiev, the opposition says.

Tymoshenko was sentenced to a seven-year jail term in 2011 for abuse of power.

hl2:Jailed opposition leader Tymoshenko released

15:34 GMT - Romanian echo - AFP Moscow correspondent Stuart Williams (@Stuart_JW) tweets: "Keep thinking today of December 22, 1989, Romanian tyrant Ceausescu's famous flight to Targoviste that did not get much further #Ukraine".

President Yanukovych is thought to be in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv -- a pro-Russian bedrock of support for him -- having left Kiev Friday.

Presidential adviser Hanna Herman insisted he went there to "meet voters."

15:27 GMT - Yanukovych 'removing self' from power - As well as voting to hold early presidential elections on May 25, Ukraine's parliament has just passed a resolution stating Yanukovych "is removing himself (from power) because he is not fulfilling his obligations".

hl2:Parliament votes to hold presidential elections May 25

15:06 GMT - Opposition not meeting obligations: Moscow - That statement which has just come in from the Russian foreign ministry is highly critical of the opposition, as you would expect from Yanukovych's main ally.

"The opposition has not only failed to meet a single one of its obligations, but is also pushing new demands, submitting itself to armed extremists and looters whose actions pose a direct threat to the sovereignty and constitutional order of Ukraine," the statement says.

14:53 GMT - 'These are bandits' - More from Yanukovych: "Everything happening today can primarily be described as vandalism, banditry and a coup d'etat. That is my assessment."

"This is not an opposition," Yanukovych added. "These are bandits."

hl2:Moscow condemns Ukraine opposition, warns of threat to country's sovereignty

14:43 GMT - Army says will play no role - More from that statement just issued by the Ukrainian army.

"The army will in no way become involved in the political conflict," it said.

Police said earlier that they were "at the service of the people" and "completely shares its aspirations for rapid changes."

14:34 GMT - Army rules itself out - In a statement, the Ukrainian army has just ruled out any involvement in the crisis.

More on that as we get it in the coming moments.

14:32 GMT - Yanukovych defiant - Yanukovych says he will not sign any of the new laws passed by parliament, including a measure to release Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The decisions they are taking today are illegitimate. They must hear this from me -- I do not intend to sign anything," Yanukovych told local TV in Kharkiv.

14:26 GMT - Banqueting hall like a galleon - More from AFP's Max Delany on what opposition supporters have been finding inside the presidential compound.

"Waterside promenade stretching for kilometres, rare pheasant collection, banquet hall built to look like a galleon, helicopter pad, museum of Soviet military vehicles-- scale breath-taking," he says.

Natalia Rudenko, who is retired from the military, tells him: "I am in shock. In a country with so much poverty, how can one person have so much?"

14:19 GMT - 'No coup' - Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, a key figure in brokering Friday's deal, has just posted this on Twitter.

"No coup in Kiev. Gov. buildings got abandoned. Speaker of Rada elected legally. Pres. VYanukovych has 24h to sign 04 Const. into law," he writes @sikorsiradek.

14:18 GMT - 'I do not intend to resign' - Yanukovych has gone on TV to deny he plans to resign.

"I am not leaving the country for anywhere. I do not intend to resign. I am the legitimately elected president," Yanukovych told a local television station in Kharkiv, where he headed after leaving Kiev on Friday.

hl2:Yanukovych says does not plan to resign

hl2:Yanukovych slams 'coup': local TV

14:03 GMT - Gold-encrusted rooms - This from AFP correspondent Max Delany, who has been with those trying to get into the compound.

"Cars backed up for kilometres as thousands streamed to get a glimpse of Yanukovych's luxurious lifestyle.

"Opposition activists protected against looting as people strolled around.

"Not allowed in houses but peered through windows at marble and gold-encrusted living rooms."

13:59 GMT - Presidential zoo - Some extraordinary pictures coming out on Twitter from inside Yanukovych's compound, where opposition protesters are now wandering around freely.

Matt Frei (@mattfrei), a journalist with Britain's Channel Four News, is among those tweeting photos of what seems to be the president's zoo.

This features everything from pigs to sheep, peacocks to antelope.

13:52 GMT - 'Resign in the name of Maidan' - More on that news that Yanukovych could be set to quit.

Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) opposition party lawmaker Mykola Katerynchuk has said Yanukovych will resign in a conversation with protest leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

"Yatsenyuk demanded in the name of Maidan that Yanukovych resign," the lawmaker said.

"Yanukovych promised to put it in writing and we are waiting for him to do so."

Yanukovych left Kiev late on Friday for the industrial eastern city of Kharkiv but a spokeswoman has denied he intends to quit.

He has already agreed to hold early presidential elections in December and appoint a unity government.

13:31 GMT - Tymoshenko release - Another major development in Ukraine today -- parliament voted to release jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

She is the ex-prime minister who spearheaded the nation's pro-democracy 2004 Orange Revolution.

Tymoshenko, an arch-foe of Yanukovych, was jailed for seven years on disputed abuse of power charges in 2011.

Her picture has been displayed above Independence Square in Kiev, the heart of the opposition's protests against Yanukovych.

13:26 GMT - Yanukovych to quit? - More on the news that President Viktor Yanukovych has apparently promised to submit his resignation.

Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) opposition party lawmaker Mykola Katerynchuk has told reporters that Yanukovych said he would quit in a conversation with protest leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

13:18 GMT - Yanukovych to quit? - Some breaking news: a Ukraine lawmaker has said President Yanukovych has promised to resign.

More on that in the next few minutes as we get it.

13:12 GMT - Live Report opens - Welcome to AFP's Live Report on the crisis in Ukraine.

President Viktor Yanukovych's regime seems on the brink of collapse after he left Kiev and opposition supporters took control of government buildings including his own compound.

Police have issued a statement saying they are "at the service of the people" and support "rapid change".

All this comes the day after Yanukovych and the opposition signed a Western-brokered peace deal to end a crisis which has left nearly 100 people dead this week alone.

About the author

Writer: AFP
Position: News agency