Events in Ukraine have been unfolding at lightning speed. Last night, an agreement was signed between the president and the opposition. This agreement left the protesters unsatisfied, as it included nothing on the resignation of Yanukovych or the prosecution of those responsible for the violence against peaceful protesters during the demonstrations. The agreement addressed the surrender of all ammunition to the authorities. However, it was very unclear how Maidan would respond and whether the violent clashes would continue. Maidan issued Yanukovych an ultimatum and demanded his resignation by 10 a.m. on 22 February.
By the morning of 22 February, the mood has shifted from uncertainty to virtual euphoria. Excitement has been building by the hour. Even though Yanukovych had not yet officially resigned, it was becoming increasingly unclear how he could continue to manage the country.
Nobody knew for sure where Yanukovych was, but the rumors were flying. His plane was reported to have left for Kharkiv, but then came information that it was heading to Sochi, and then claims that it flew to the UAE, but Dubai did not let it land. Ultimately, the plane supposedly landed on the east coast of the UAE to refuel. What happened next is unclear. An hour ago, the plane allegedly landed at a small airport in eastern Ukraine, but this information has not been confirmed.
Defense Minister Lebedev is said to have fled to Crimea, General Prosecutor Pshonka is nowhere to be found, the Minister of Internal Affairs allegedly fled to Belarus, and Head of the Presidential Administration Klyuev and his deputy were apparently dismissed by the Parliament. Party of Regions members are trying to flee the country, but activists are blocking the roads to the airports and checking cars against lists of party members. Berkut has left Maidan. The protesters are in control of the city. Austria is reported to have opened a criminal case against Klyuev for money laundring.
The resident has abandoned his private residence at Mezhyhirya. The huge luxury estate, which allegedly had a golden toilet installed, has become a symbol for the expanding corruption and despotism in Ukraine. The residence is now open to the public and people are heading there en masse to see how the president has lived for the past few years. The residence is surrounded by a double seven-meter fence’ and the only pictures that ever appeared in the press had been taken from the air. The guards are not preventing anyone from going inside. People have found a number of luxurious yachts, cars and motorcycles. Everything that was left behind costs millions of dollars.
The most important finding so far is documents found floating in the river. These documents, which were fished out of the water, contain information and personal data on activists and journalists, data on bribes, and records of cash payments for luxurious renovations of the residences and offices of the President. There are signs of someone having tried to burn them. Photos of these documents are now being posted to Facebook. Yesterday, a huge number of documents were reported to have been removed from Mezhygiriya. Some of them had indeed been burned. There were also reports of documents being burned in offices of the Security Services around Ukraine. The golden toilet is yet to be found, but among the more impressive findings so far is a golden portrait of Yanukovych that weights approximately one kilogram.
Verkhovna Rada, the Parliament of Ukraine, has voted to revert to the Constitution of 2004, free Yulia Tymoshenko, and appoint a temporary Speaker. Batikivshchyna party deputy Oleksandr Turchynov was elected Speaker of the Parliament, with 288 votes. Arsen Avakov, also from the Batkivshchyna party, has been appointed Acting Minister of Internal Affairs. Parliament insisted on appointing the acting head of the Interior Ministry as soon as possible in order to restore order in the country, and to ensure that all of the evidence showing who is responsible for the kidnappings, tortures, and violence is preserved.
Mykhail Dobkin, head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, had called for a convention to be held in Kharkiv to discuss the possibility of the separation of East and West Ukraine. However, as almost all of the deputies have already fled, the convention was unsuccessful. There is a huge peaceful demonstration in Kharkiv. This demonstration is said to be the largest in Kharkiv since the declaration of Ukraine’s independence. The crowd is shouting “East and West” in unison.
The Parliament has voted in favor of a law permitting criminal cases to be opened against any officials who call for separation between Ukraine’s regions.
All in all, truly amazing developments. At 5:20 PM GMT +2 the Parliament of Ukraine voted with a constitutional majority to revoke the Presidential mandate of Viktor Yanukovych. There was an outburst of applause and the MPs sang the national anthem.
We have won this fight and every Ukrainian is feeling euphoric right now. However, we will never forget the price Ukraine has paid to win. Maidan mourns its dead heroes today. Thousands of people came to the funerals. Every one of them cried, including the priests singing the prayers. Ukrainians around the world are bringing flowers and candles to the embassies to praise those who died fighting for our freedom, justice, and dignity. We must make sure that the heroes have not died in vain. We must now build the country we have been fighting for.
Ukraine, you are free.
by Oksana Poliakova
Edited by Lesia Stangret and Robin Rohrback