ukraineThe day that the protesters on Maidan were waiting for has taken place in Ukraine. On Saturday, February 22nd, the Verkhovna Rada decided that the president left his post and scheduled new elections for May 25th. Yanukovych called this a coup. Yulia Tymoshenko was freed and arrived in Kiev.

Today, the political life of Ukraine was drastically altered. While in the morning, the country was awaiting the president’s signature signaling a return to the 2004 constitution, by evening, it became apparent that his signature was not necessary and that the president himself had been left with uncertain powers.

Nothing was heard from Victor Yanukovych until 4pm. At night, there were news that he had fled to Kharkiv where today a meeting of south-eastern deputies was held. But the exact whereabouts of Yanukovych remained a mystery. His presidential residency, usually thoroughly guarded became vacant all of a sudden. Everyday Kiev residents even lined up to get a glimpse of the luxurious palace.

While the president was missing, the Rada “insured itself,” passing a bill to return the 2004 constitution—in case Yanukovych refuses to sign Friday’s bill into law. The deputies followed this up by electing Arsen Avakov to head the secret police, firing its former head, Viktor Pshonka, and freeing Yulia Timoshenko from prison. Alexander Turchinov became the new speaker following the resignation of Vladimir Rybak. He immediately requested information about the whereabouts of Yanukovych. “It has to be made clear that the main demand of the Ukrainian people is the president’s resignation. I’d like to have an opportunity to discuss this with the president today,” –said Turchinov.

But Yanukovych was neither about to talk to Turchinov, nor resign. Right before the beginning of the evening session of the Verkhovna Rada, at 4pm, the president made an appearance on channel UBR and stated that he never left Ukraine, that he will not sign any of Rada’s decisions, and that he views all of these occurrences as a coup d’etat and hopes for negotiations with the West.

As a result of this, supported by a constitutional majority (328 votes), parliament passed a critical decision: “Considering that the president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, has resigned from carrying out his constitutional duties, which threatens the governing of the nation, its territorial integrity, and Ukrainian sovereignty, due to emergency circumstances, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, stipulating the sovereign might of the Ukrainian people, declares that:

  1. The president of Ukraine, Yanukovych, unconstitutionally resigned from fulfilling his constitutional mandate and is not fulfilling his responsibilities.
  2. Premature presidential elections will be held on May 25th, 2014.
  3. This measure is valid from the moment of its signing.

Representatives of all factions, including the Communists and Russian nationalists voted in favor of this bill. According to Sergey Tigipko, due to unsuccessful attempts to contact the president, they felt “abandoned and this resulted in a free voting of the factions.”

We haven’t yet seen Victor Yanukovych’s reaction. Only his advisor, Anna German, presented his opinion, according to which he doesn’t accept his resignation. “The president does not accept this decision by the Verkhovna Rada and considers it unlawful. He’s been on a work trip to Kharkiv only half a day, and this has been portrayed as a resignation,” she stated in her comments to UNIAN.

Whatever the position of Yanukovych may be, the CEC is ready to hold early elections. They just need the money to do so. The winners have already appointed their own curators to the leading ministries.

In the meantime, Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from prison. A few hours after the parliament made a decision to free the former prime minister, she was taken out of the hospital on a wheel chair. Lady Y. arrived in Kiev in the evening. On her way, she called Arsen Yatsenyuk. She then appeared on Maidan, where according to many, she showed good political prowess. Many of the protestors on Maidan think that they fought and faced sniper bullets not in order to just return power to the hands of the woman who managed to lose so inadequately just a few years ago.

Many of the ministers and important activists of the pro-presidential “Regional Party” were quick to leave the Ukraine for fear of reprisals on behalf of the victorious revolutionaries. Yanukovych himself is most likely in Donetsk, where border patrol did not allow him to flee Ukraine.

Fact is, by the eve of Saturday, February 22nd, a historical event had taken place: the epoch of Yanukovych came to an end in an embarrassing, bloody finale. According to official data, from February 18th till the 21st, 82 people were killed and hundreds were wounded in Kiev. Now, Ukraine and its people face the question: where to go from here?