February 23, 2014

Ukraine’s Pres. Yanukovich Missing As His Office Is Seized

 Viktor Yanukovych speaks in Kharkiv, Ukraine Photo: AP

Viktor Yanukovych speaks in Kharkiv, Ukraine Photo: AP

Protesters have seized the Kiev office of President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition has demanded a new election be held by May, as the pro-Russian leader’s grip on power eroded and his whereabouts were unknown.

Anti-government demonstrators entered Yanukovich’s compound in the capital on Saturday and were controlling the entrance, a Reuters news agency journalist at the scene reported.

Security guards were present inside the building but were not trying to expel the protesters.

The president’s residence outside the capital appeared to have been abandoned. Local media said protesters entered the sprawling grounds but it was unclear whether they were inside the building. Interfax, a Russian news agency, said some security guards were present.

Ukrainian opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko earlier on Saturday said that Yanukovich had left Kiev and that the country must hold early elections.

“Today he left the capital,” Klitschko told an emergency session of parliament, which was debating an opposition motion calling on Yanukovich to resign.

“Millions of Ukrainians see only one choice – early presidential and parliamentary elections.”

Yanukovich had been due to visit the northeastern city of Kharkiv. His residence outside the capital was empty and unguarded and journalists were entering freely, local media reported.

Parliament was sitting on Saturday in the wake of a deal to end days of carnage in the capital.

Thousands of protesters on Kiev’s Independence Square are demanding Yanukovich go immediately, sceptical of a European Union-brokered accord under which the embattled leader agreed to give up powers, hold early elections by the end of the year and form a government of national unity.

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