Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses the crowd in central Kiev. (Pic: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER Yulia Tymoshenko announced a bid for the presidency after her release from prison and Viktor Yanukovych was stopped from fleeing the country after the nation’s bloodiest week since World War II.
Yanukovych has so far escaped detention after being removed from the presidency in a vote by lawmakers yesterday.
After a day in which protesters took control of central Kiev and flooded into Yanukovych’s luxury estate, ex-Premier Tymoshenko, who led the overturning of a 2004 Yanukovych election victory in the Orange Revolution, addressed the crowds in Kiev.
“Today a dictatorship fell,” Tymoshenko told tens of thousands of supporters on Kiev’s Independence Square, the scene of the worst fighting last week. “A new epoch has started — an epoch of free people, of a free European Ukraine.”
With Yanukovych denouncing events from eastern Ukraine as a “coup d’etat”, opposition parties must quickly establish a new government and begin to shore up an economy in need of outside financial aid.
Facing public anger in Kiev and western Ukraine at Yanukovych’s decision last year to pull out of a trade deal with the European Union, they may encounter political wrangling as Tymoshenko’s return complicates plans to share power.
The dispute between Yanukovych and his detractors polarised sentiment in the Black Sea country of 45 million largely between its western regions bordering ex-communist EU states Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania and those in the south and east that are home to more Russian speakers and ethnic Russians.
An ornamental horse stands outside Yanukovych’s countryside residence. (Pic: AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)
Border officials stopped Yanukovych’s plane from leaving the country in the eastern Donetsk region yesterday, Oleh Slobodyan, the head of the media department of Ukraine’s border service, said by phone today. Yanukovych has not made another attempt to cross the border, Slobodyan said.
Former Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko was caught at the same airport, Interfax reported yesterday, citing a customs official.
In Kiev’s northern outskirts, thousands of Ukrainians converged on Yanukovych’s residence. Hundreds of cars thronged the entrance, while people rode bikes and carried children around the compound. Previously closed to visitors, it boasted a man-made lake as large as several football fields with a life- sized galleon and a zoo with deer, ostriches, peacocks and other animals. Next to a towering mansion, a garage housed antique cars, motorcycles and at least seven limousines, according to images on website Censor.net.
A man holds a golf club with the name of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on a golf course at the his residence. (Pic:AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)
Activists prevented people from entering the mansion. They recovered reams of documents that had been thrown into the pond and dried them in a building full of boats and a miniature hovercraft, according to images shown on Hromadske TV.
The opening of the sprawling estate dominated news broadcasts in Ukraine, where the average nominal wage was €294 a month, according to December data from the Kiev-based Statistics Office.
“We are obliged to bring Yanukovych back” to the capital, Tymoshenko said in her speech from a wheelchair on Independence Square. Having traveled from a hospital where she was receiving long-term treatment for a hernia in her back, she urged protesters to stay in the square, also the center of the Orange Revolution.
In central Kiev, hundreds of people marched in processions bearing the coffins of activists killed in clashes since Feb. 18, shouting ‘Glory! Glory! Glory!’’ Marchers wept as the coffins were put in trucks to be taken for burial. Priests chanted prayers from the stage at the protesters’ tent encampment that has been the epicenter of the crisis.
“This man died for you,” Vitaly Kulakovsky, a 43-year-old supply manager said to his son, sobbing openly in front of a coffin yesterday. “It could have been me. Remember, he died for us, for our lives to be different.”