A spokesman for the President of Ukraine has denied that he will be offering his resignation as four heads of security forces, including the police's Berkut anti-riot units, told parliament that they will withdraw from all conflict, which has so far killed at least 77 in the country.
The AFP news agency tweeted this afternoon that Viktor Yanukovych pledged to resign, quoting a Ukraine lawmaker, but this was later rebuffed by the president's spokesperson. The four security leaders represented the paratroop unit of the military, the Berkut anti-riot police, Alfa special operations unit and military intelligence. The Interior Ministry had already signalled its allegiance to anti-government protests under a new minister from the ranks of the opposition.
The country had been in a state in uncertainty this morning with no sign of the President in Kiev and the streets empty of his security forces.
Members of the public, including journalists, were able to enter his residential complex, which was being guarded by protesters armed with clubs.
The doors to the building were locked and we were told by the “self defence volunteers” that ministers would be allowed in to conduct official business.
At Independence Square, Maidan, where the opponents of the government had based themselves since unrest began four months following the President’s refusal to sign an accord with the European Union, some believed that an alternative administration would be in place in days made up of opposition politicians.
At the same time, rumours were circulating in the city that the government had fallen and Mr Yanukovich had fled the country, with Russia a favoured destination.
“He's not here [in Kiev], none of his officials or anyone linked directly to the administration are here,” Ostap Kryvdyk, a protest leader, told reporters in the grounds of the presidential administration building.
Reuters quoted a “senior security source” who claimed Mr Yanukovych was still in the country.
“Everything is ok with him,” the source said. “He is in Ukraine.” Asked whether the embattled leader was in the capital, he replied: “I cannot say.”
In pictures: Clashes between police and demonstrators in Kiev, Ukraine
In pictures: Clashes between police and demonstrators in Kiev, Ukraine
Anti-government protesters clash with police on Hrushevskoho Street in Ukraine's capital city on Friday night
Anti-government protesters attempt to take over the Ukrainian House on Sunday night
Protesters and police officers clash during the night of Friday to Saturday. After two months of primarily peaceful anti-government protests in the city center, new laws meant to end the protest movement have sparked violent clashes in recent days
Anti-government protesters clash with policemen in Kiev on Friday night as the protests continue in Ukraine
Anti-government protesters gather around a fire to get warm at a road block in Kiev on 26 January
An anti-government protester prepares to throw a Molotov cocktail during the clashes between protesters and policemen on 24 January
Anti-government protesters hurl Molotov cocktails and burn tires during clashes with police on Hrushevskoho Street near Dynamo stadium on January 24
Protesters confront police in central Kiev on Friday night
Anti-government protesters launches a firework towards police near the Dynamo Stadium in Kiev
Rob Stothard/Getty Images
A protester waves a Ukrainian flag during clashes with police in central Kiev
A protester throws a tire onto a fire in Kiev
Opposition leader and former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko addresses protesters near the burning barricades between police and protesters in central Kiev
A protester breaks up a mannequin on the roof of the burned truck during clashes with police in central Kiev
A protester throws tires onto a fire during a clash with police in central Kiev
Thick black smoke from burning tires engulfed parts of downtown Kiev as an ultimatum issued by the opposition to the president to call early election or face street rage was set to expire with no sign of a compromise
Protesters use a large slingshot to hurl a Molotov cocktail at police in central Kiev
Burning members of the Ukrainian riot police due to the gasoline bombs hurled by anti-government protestors during the clashes in central Kiev
A demonstrator holds an incendiary device as protesters clash with police in the center of Kiev
Protesters burn tires as they clash with riot police during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev
Protesters clash with police in central Kiev. Police in Ukraine's capital tore down protester barricades and chased demonstrators away from the site of violent clashes, hours after two protesters died after being shot
A riot police officer escorts a man as a woman with a cross reacts nearby during clashes between police and pro-European protesters in Kiev
Riot policemen arrest a protestor during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev
An injured man is escorted during clashes between police and pro-European protesters in Kiev
Medical workers help an injured man during anti-government protest in downtown Kiev
Medical personnel transport a man who was injured during clashes with riot police in Kiev
A man reacts after he was injured during a rally held by pro-European protesters in Kiev
An Orthodox priest tries to stop clash protesters the police in the center of Kiev
Ukrainian priests stand between protesters and riot police officers during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev
An elderly woman walks from police officers as they block a street during unrest in central Kiev
An Ukrainian opposition activist speak to riot-forces standing guard in front of the parliament in Kiev
A protester smokes at the barricade in front of armour-clad security forces blocking access to the Verkhovna Rada parliament in Kiev
Pro-European protester take cover during clashes with riot police in Kiev. Two demonstrators were reported killed in new anti-government unrest in the Ukrainian capital, inflaming protesters who confronted police shouting 'Murderers' and 'Glory to Ukraine!'
Pro-European protesters launch a pyrotechnic pistol towards riot police during clashes in Kiev
A police officer throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes with protesters in central Kiev
A pro-European protester lies on the ground during clashes with riot police in Kiev
Demonstrators beat on a burnt vehicle as pro-European integration protesters hold a rally in Kiev
People stand on a barricade during a clashing break of the opposition and the police in Kiev
Protesters tip over a burnt out police bus during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev
A pro-European protester fires a pneumatic gun during clashes with Ukrainian riot police in Kiev
Protesters wearing headbands reading 'Help' shout slogans during an action entitled 'Impose sanctions - stop the violence' in front of the European Union delegation in Ukraine in Kiev. Participants of the rally urged the European Union to immediately impose personal sanctions for those responsible for the use of force against peaceful protesters and journalists, as well as involved in the adoption of unconstitutional laws in Ukraine that violate fundamental human rights
A pro-European integration protester catches fire during clashes with police in Kiev
A pro-European integration protester sits in a burnt police bus after a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev
A pro-European integration protester uses a slingshot during clashes with police in Kiev
A bare chested man waves a Ukrainian flag during clashes between the opposition and police in the centre of Kiev. Opposition protesters were today locked in a tense standoff with Ukrainian police in Kiev after bloody clashes that wounded over 200 people, as President Viktor Yanukovych called emergency talks to resolve the crisis
A protester sprays fire in the direction of the riot police during clashes in the centre of Kiev. EU foreign ministers deplored violent protests in Kiev, saying the government was at fault for passing a package of repressive laws in an effort to tame pro-EU demonstrations
Pro-European integration protesters carry Molotov cocktails during clashes with police in Kiev. Protesters clashed with riot police in the Ukrainian capital after tough anti-protest legislation, which the political opposition says paves the way for a police state and was rushed through parliament
A protester prays as he holds an open Bible during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev
Protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a clash with police in central Kiev
Pro-European protesters bang on a metal bin during a rally in Kiev
A clergyman opposes riot police in Kiev during a rally held by pro-European integration demonstrators. Protesters gathered in Independence Square as repressive new laws came into force
Pro-European Union activists sing the national anthem in central Kiev
Hanna Herman, a close aide of the President, told reporters he was visiting the city of Kharkiv in east Ukraine, where many of his supporters are based.
Some were concerned that Mr Yanukovich was in the process of mobilising his supporters from the pro-Russian area to carry out a counter-coup.
Right-wing fringe groups, who had played a prominent part in the street protests, were calling up reinforcements to “defend the people”.
Saturday’s extraordinary developments followed the signing of an agreement between the government and the opposition, brokered by the European Union, under which an interim cross-party administration was due to be formed and elections held by December, three months ahead of schedule.
The 2004 constitution was to be restored within 48 hours and a national unity government formed within 10 days before constitutional reform starts to balance the President's powers with that of government and parliament.
A presidential election will be held no later than December 2014 and an investigation into acts of violence will be monitored by the Council of Europe.
The agreement promises that authorities will not impose another state of emergency and “refrain from the use of violence” after reports that police opened fire on protesters.
But it may be too little, too late to pacify anti-government protesters who united in spite of dramatically differing political views with the sole aim of ousting Mr Yanukovych.
Opposition leaders were reportedly booed on Friday as they spoke to crowds following the deal, which many do not trust.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, urged all sides to adhere to the agreement “in good faith” and pledged the UK’s support through transition.
An emboldened parliament also voted to free Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and implacable enemy of Mr Yanukovich who is serving a seven year sentence after being convicted of abuse of power.
Ukrainian lawmakers then voted in favour of accelerating her release under quicker procedures, without requiring the President's endorsement.
As parliament met today, Vitaly Klitschko, leader of the opposition Udar party, told MPs the President had left Kiev.
He added: “We must, as the people demand, adopt a resolution calling on Yanukovych to immediately resign.”
Ukraine's parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Rybak became the latest high-profile Yanukovych loyalist to resign on Saturday.
Oleksander Turchynov, a senior member of the opposition Fatherland Party and ally of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was elected by parliament to replace him.
A large number of MPs from the President’s party has defected and so, in small numbers, are members of the security forces.
The crowd at the Maidan were chanting: “Yanukovych, you’re finished. Go to hell.”
Additional reporting by Lizzie DeardenReuse content