President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine was on Saturday voted out by the parliament after three months of street protests, while his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister was released from jail.
The parliament agreed to temporarily hand over the duties of president to the speaker of the assembly, Oleksander Turchinov, who told deputies to agree on the formation of a national unity government by Tuesday.
An early election has been set for May 25.
Yanukovich has said that a flurry of parliament decisions in recent days are illegal and that the parliament is now illegitimate.
The whereabouts of the ousted President has remained unknown since Saturday after Ukrainian news agencies, citing the deputy head of the State Border Service, reported that a chartered airplane with Yanukovich onboard was denied permission to take off from Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is the president’s base of support.
Meanwhile, Tymoshenko who was freed from prison returned to Kiev to address a massive crowd.
“You are heroes because nobody could do what you have done. We’ve eliminated this cancer, this tumour. Until you finish this job nobody has the right to leave,” she said.
Her release marks a radical transformation in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Removal of the pro-Russian Yanukovich should pull Ukraine away from Moscow’s orbit and closer to Europe.
It is also a reversal for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dream of recreating as much as possible of the Soviet Union in a new Eurasian Union. Moscow had counted on Yanukovich to deliver Ukraine as a central member.
The crisis in the country erupted in November after Yanukovych turned away from a deal with the EU and sought closer ties with Russia, which offered the government urgently needed loans of up to $15 billion.