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Ukraine President Flees Kiev After “Coup D’Etat” As Protesters Storm Presidential Palace, Plunder Gold; Army On Hold | Zero Hedge
It has been a busy night in the Ukraine.
First, the newly-installed interior minister declared that the police were now behind the protesters they had fought for days, giving central Kiev the look of a war zone with 77 people killed, while central authority crumbled in western Ukraine. Then despite yesterday’s latest anti-crisis “agreement” which we said would last at best hours, the protesters continued their pressure against embattled president Yanukovich, demanding his outright and unconditional resignation, leading to his fleeing Kiev by airplane overnight to the far more pro-Russian city of Kharkiv located in the Eastern Ukraine, even as his arch rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is held in prison in the same city, was rumored to have been released on her way to the far more anti-Russian city of Kiev – it turns out those rumors have so far been incorrect.
Then there was a plethora of rumors that he has or is about to either escape the country and/or resign, sparking celebrations in Kiev, only for him to appear on TV subsequently and not only deny a resignation is coming, but that he accused the current leaders in Kiev of staging a coup d’etat and that all parliamentary decisions today have been illegitimate, saying “I did all I could to avoid bloodshed” while comparing recent events in the Ukraine to the “Fascist Revolution” in Germany. This was promptly rebutted by the Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski who tweeted there is no coup in Kiev and President Viktor Yanukovych has 24 hours to sign re-adopted 2004 constitution into law.
The just released interview is below:
Most importantly, all of this is happening as governors, and regional legislators in eastern Ukraine question authority of national parliament. Meanwhile over in the “western” Kiev, Parliament members of the opposition began laying the groundwork for a change in leadership, electing Oleksander Turchynov, an ally of the imprisoned opposition leader and former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, as speaker. And Mr. Klitschko called for new elections to replace Mr. Yanukovych by May 25. “Millions of Ukrainians see only one choice — early presidential and parliamentary elections,” he tweeted.
The NYT reports:
Members of an opposition group from Lviv called the 31st Hundred — carrying clubs and some of them wearing masks — were in control of the entryways to the palace Saturday morning. And Vitali Klitschko, one of three opposition leaders who signed the deal to end the violence, said that Mr. Yanukovych had “left the capital” but his whereabouts were unknown, with members of the opposition speculating that he had gone to Kharkiv, in the northeast part of Ukraine.
Protesters claimed to have established control over Kiev. By Saturday morning they had secured key intersections of the city and the government district of the capital, which police officers had fled, leaving behind burned military trucks, mattresses and heaps of garbage at the positions they had occupied for months.
All of this is pointing to a national schism between the pro-Russian east, and its new de facto capital, Kharkiv, and the western part of the nation, where the EU (and CIA) influences are strongest. Luckily, for now there won’t be a military involvement:
- UKRAINE DEFENSE MIN: ARMY WON’T BE INVOLVED IN GOVT CONFLICT
… for now.This will likely change: moments ago Russia’s Foreign Minister said Ukraine’s opposition is led by “armed extremists” and their actions pose direct threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty, which means a Russian involvement in some capacity is imminent.
Perhaps more important was the following statement:
- UKRAINE TO ENSURE SMOOTH NATGAS TRANSIT TO EU, DEP PREMIER SAYS
That would the Russian gas which traverses the country, which can be halted with the turn of a spigot.
Bottom line, the situation is fluid, and is increasingly bordering on an all too real threat of civil war between the country’s linguistically and affiliation-divided west and east.
The one thing that is clear is that the former presidential compound is now in the power of the people. From CBS.
The protesters, who are angry over corruption and want Ukraine to move toward Europe rather than Russia, claimed full control of Kiev and took up positions around the president’s office and a grandiose residential compound believed to be his, though he never acknowledged it.
At the sprawling suburban Kiev compound, protesters stood guard and blocked more radical elements among them from entering the building, fearing unrest. Moderate protesters have sought to prevent their comrades from looting or taking up the weapons that have filled Kiev in recent weeks.
The compound became an emblem of the secrecy and arrogance that defines Yanukovych’s presidency, painting him as a leader who basks in splendor while his country’s economy suffers and his opponents are jailed. An AP journalist visiting the grounds Saturday saw manicured lawns, a pond, several luxurious houses and the big mansion itself, an elaborate confection of five stories with marble columns.
Protesters attached a Ukrainian flag to a lamppost at the compound, shouting: “Glory to Ukraine!”
A group of protesters in helmets and shields stood guard at the president’s office Saturday. No police were in sight.
Which brings us to the most interesting finding of the day: what has so far been plundered from the palace:
Inside Yanukovych’s private residence
Pictures emerging from the president’s private residence in the outskirts of Kyiv after protesters stormed the building.
“It’s just like being in Monaco” – man on phone next to me at Yanukovich’s residence outside Kiev pic.twitter.com/FZfU6xNHIp
— Emma Wells (@Emmawells1) February 22, 2014
— Vitalii Sediuk (@VitaliiSediuk) February 22, 2014
Protesters with an “euromaidan” flag at Yanukovych’s balcony.
— ?????????? (@euromaidan) February 22, 2014
???????’?. ?????. ????? ?? ????????. ????????????? ??????? pic.twitter.com/yFdq9BpYJx
— ????? ??? (@MichaelShchur) February 22, 2014
And as usually happens, the plundering has revealed numerous golden coins discovered in Yanukovych’s garage and a 1 kg gold coin with the president’s portrait.
?? ? ?? (?? ?? ?????????) ?????? ? ????????? ?????? ? ?????? ? ???????’? pic.twitter.com/KExRR96pOR
— ????? ??? (@MichaelShchur) February 22, 2014
?? ?? ??????? ? ?????? ? ???????’?. ??????? ?????????. 1 ?? ?????? pic.twitter.com/iQ9hwFxYtf
— ????? ??? (@MichaelShchur) February 22, 2014
Finally, for the blow by blow, or rather tweet by tweet of events in the past 24 hours, we go to Euronews which has done the best job of summairizing the constatntly changing situation:
Yanukovych on TV: “I’m not leaving the country”
On an interview broadcast minutes ago on ukrainian TV UBR, and recorded at 12h30, president Yanukovych refuses to resign saying “we’ve taken all the steps to stabilize the country, we voted an amnesty law and organised early elections”. The president that fled Kyiv to go to Kharkiv also says, “I’m trying to protect people from bandits”. Yanukovitch compares also Ukraine now to Nazi Germany in the 30s. In the interview, the president assures that he’s not leaving the country. He also denounced on Saturday what he described as a “coup d’etat”. “The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d’etat,” he was quoted as saying.
Opposition leader Petro Poroshenko says Yanukovych has changed his mind about his earlier decision to resign http://t.co/wFQdXhHY4G
— KyivPost (@KyivPost) February 22, 2014
Yatseniuk says he spoke with Yanik and confirms he has resigned #euromaidan
— bruce springnote (@BSpringnote) February 22, 2014
Yanukovych resignation to be read soon at the parliament
Euronews’ correspondents in Kyiv report that the statement should be read at the parliament in the next minutes.
— Paul Waldie (@pwaldieGLOBE) February 22, 2014
Waiting for the release of jailed former Prime-Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Conflicting reports that she was already freed from Kharkiv jail.
— MareikeAden (@MareikeAden) February 22, 2014
Tymoshenko daughter speaks to Kyiv Post at parliament, says releasing her mom won’t be easy
|Ukrainian protesters have erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building, fuelling tension after the failure of crisis talks with the president, Viktor Yanukovich.In response to opposition calls, about 1,000 demonstrators moved away from Kiev’s Independence Square in the early hours of Friday and began to erect new barricades closer to the presidential headquarters.
Masked protesters, some carrying riot police shields seized as trophies, stood guard as others piled up sandbags packed with frozen snow to form new ramparts across the road leading down into the square.
After leaving a second round of talks with Yanukovich empty handed late on Thursday, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko voiced fears the impasse could now lead to further bloodshed.
After speaking first to protesters manning the barricades, Klitschko then went to Independence Square where he declared: “Hours of conversation were spent about nothing. There is no sense sitting at a negotiating table with someone who has already decided to deceive you.”
Klitschko had earlier brokered a truce in the violence between protesters and police, and the ceasefire appears to be holding so far.
A group of protesters took control of the main agricultural ministry building in the centre. “We need the place for our people to warm up,” a local protest leader was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Meanwhile, protesters near Dynamo Kiev football stadium, the new flashpoint in the city, cranked up their action, setting tyres ablaze again and sending a pall of black smoke over the area.
There were no signs that protesters were heeding an appeal from general prosecutor Viktor Pshonka who said early on Friday that those so far arrested would be treated leniently by the courts if protest action was halted.
At least three protesters have been killed so far after clashes between protesters and riot police.
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in the capital after Yanukovich backed away from signing a free trade deal with the EU, which many people saw as the key to a European future, in favour of financial aid from Ukraine’s old Soviet master Russia.
But the movement has since widened into broader protests against perceived misrule and corruption in the Yanukovich leadership.
Protesters have been enraged too by sweeping anti-protest legislation that was rammed through parliament last week by Yanukovich loyalists in the assembly.
Earlier on Thursday, Yanukovich had suggested he might be prepared to make concessions to the opposition when he called for a special session of parliament next week to consider the opposition demands and find a way out of the crisis. But this did not impress opposition leaders.
Underlining the level of mistrust between the government and opposition, the prime minister Mykola Azarov on Thursday accused protesters of trying to stage a coup and dismissed the possibility of an early presidential election.
|A controversial anti-protest law has come into effect in Ukraine, despite violent rallies against the legislation that have taken place for the past two days, ignoring an appeal for calm by President Viktor Yanukovych.
The new law, which bans all forms of protests, was published in the official Golos Ukrainy, or Voice of Ukraine, newspaper, raising fears that the government would use excessive force to quell dissent.
Opposition and and the West have condemned the bill, demanding that it be reversed, but the interior ministry said at least 32 protesters had been arrested in the most recent round of demonstrations.
Yanukovych made a call for calm on Monday, when demonstrators braved sub-zero temperatures and clashed with police over new anti-protest laws.
A statement issued on the presidential website said: “When peaceful actions have escalated into mass riots accompanied by demolition, arson and violence, I am confident that such phenomena threaten not only Kiev but the whole of the Ukraine. I call for dialogue, compromise and peace in our native land.”
The situation was tense in Kiev, with protesters occasionally charging against police lines guarding the passage to government buildings, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
The violence, which began on Sunday, came after Yanukovych pushed through an anti-protest law that significantly increased fines and imposed jail terms for unauthorised street protests.
The new law also prohibits activists from wearing helmets or masks to demonstrations, curbs free speech and limits the ability to investigate or monitor the activity of officials, including judges.
Sunday’s fighting left about 200 people wounded.
In an attempt to find a compromise, opposition leader and former boxer Vitali Klitschko travelled to Yanukovych’s home outside Kiev to meet him.
The president received Klitschko and promised on Monday to create a special commission of officials set up by national security council secretary Andriy Klyuyev to solve the crisis. The move was announced by Klitscko’s party, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, and the presidency.
The presidency said the new commission would meet the opposition but there was no sign that the meeting had taken place as of Monday evening.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels deplored the continued violence, saying the government was at fault for adopting the repressive laws.
The White House urged an end to the fighting, with US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying that Washington was deeply concerned and urged “all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation”.
“The US will continue to consider additional steps – including sanctions – in response to the use of violence,” Hayden added.
The following seven minutes of mayhem look eerily reminiscent of the violent pre-ambles to the middle-east’s recent coups or non-coups. As anti-government protesters demonstrated against the shunning of a European trade agreement (President Yanukovych – “I will not allow any serious economic losses and decline of living standards”); the clashes became ever more violent as the police cracked down. Following heavyweight boxing champion (and opposition leader) Vitali Klitschko’s call for a new government – “our main task is Yanukovych’s resignation. But the first step is the resignation of Azarov’s government” – the clashes left at least 265 people injured. The crackdown followed Interior Minister comments that they “won’t allow Ukraine to become another Libya or Tunisia, where uprisings toppled governments in recent years.” Of course, the main difference is the Ukraine is now squarely under Putin’s sphere of influence.
0:20 Initial fireworks followed by police flash-bangs and tear gas…
1:45 Some standard police beatings
3:00 Ubiquitous projectile exchange
3:30 Police charge…
4:30 Serious police beatings handed out
5:30 The two fronts stare each other down
6:00 Serious police reinforcements