'I am sure Ukraine will join the EU': Former PM Yulia Tymoshenko is freed hours after parliament ousts President Viktor Yanukovych

Elections will be brought forward to 25 May

The former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, has been freed from prison and said that she is certain that the country will now join the EU, just hours after MPs voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovych.

"Our homeland will from today on be able to see the sun and sky as a dictatorship has ended," Tymoshenko told reporters after her release from the hospital where she had been held under prison guard for most of the time since she was jailed in 2011.

Tymoshenko, who was on her way to Kiev to join the protesters in Independence Square, said she will "make it so that no drop of blood that was spilled will be forgotten."

She also said that she is "sure that Ukraine will be a member of the European Union in the near future and this will change everything," according to the Interfax news agency.

The embattled leader Yanukovych has been formally impeached and declared constitutionally unable to carry out his duties.

MPs clapped and started singing the national anthem after the announcement was made and set an early election on 25 May.

A huge cheer rose up from thousands of protesters assembled in Independence Square in Kiev when the news came through.

Many government buildings have been taken over by activists, including Mr Yanukovych's own office and residence.

In a television statement, the President had already declared all decisions taken by parliament on Saturday as "illegitimate" and denounced the opposition movement as a coup run by "vandals".

"They are trying to scare me. I have no intention to leave the country. I am not going to resign, I'm the legitimately elected president," Yanukovych said in a televised statement.

"Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and banditry and a coup d'etat," he said. "I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed."

Latest:

Country is descending into a chaos of warring extremist groups
EU aims to woo new leadership with aid deal
Comment: Too simple to describe this as a case of East vs West
Putin promises to work with Merkel and keep crisis-hit country ‘intact’

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the US Secretary of State John Kerry this evening that the peace deal signed yesterday had been "sharply degraded by opposition forces' inability or lack of desire" to respect it.

"Illegal extremist groups are refusing to disarm and in fact are taking Kiev under their control with the connivance of opposition leaders," Lavrov told Kerry by telephone, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement.

Lavrov "reminded" Kerry that President Vladimir Putin had urged US President Barack Obama during an earlier call to "use every opportunity to stop the illegal actions of radicals and return the situation to constitutional channels", it said.

Additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press

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