Ukraine uprising: 'He has gone. He has gone. Glory to our brave heroes' - as President Yanukovych flees to the east, his beleaguered people taste freedom

Parliament votes to strip him of power and free former PM Yulia Tymoshenko from prison

Mezhyhirya

The news of the resignation came to the crowds as they had spread out across the 180 rolling hectares of the presidential estate. The cheers rose first from those around the main mansion, fanned by the riverside walk, then the yacht hanger, the transported Roman arch, the private zoo, then the dairy and the hothouses for exotic plants. "He has gone, he has gone," began the chants. "Glory to our brave heroes."

It became clear a little later that although Viktor Yanukovych had indeed fled Kiev, he had refused to fall on his sword. Instead, he was in Kharkiv, among his loyalists, bitterly accusing his opponents of carrying out a coup and vowing not to give up.

The latest dramatic twist in the most momentous day in the 23 years of Ukraine's current independence had the opposition taking over the capital and most of the west of country; parliament voting to strip the President of power, as well as the freeing of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister. As she was being driven away from jail, Mr Yanukovych's implacable adversary declared: "Our homeland will, from today on, be able to see the sun and sky as a dictatorship had ended."

But the rapidly churning day also brought dark clouds as the prospects of descent into a civil war and the possible partition of the country came ominously closer. But that was not the immediate concern of the thousands who had flocked to Mezhyhirya in the city's suburbs to witness the style in which the President and his family had become accustomed to living at the same time as they had struggled with an economic downturn brought about by political instability.

A victim's funeral A victim's funeral The "self-defence volunteers" of the opposition had arrived there in the early hours of the morning after learning that the police and army units guarding the place had fled and there was no sign of Mr Yanukovych and his entourage. This was the first indication of a profound change of fortunes in the country's sustained confrontation.

Inside the President's residence and office were some domestic staff and members of the security service. They were told that any resistance would result in the doors being blasted and imprisonment if they survived.

"The first concern raised by the secret service guys was who would feed the animals and milk the cows. We assured them that free Ukraine would be able to cope with that," said Alex Gorgan, one of the senior activists. "There was a discussion on whether the whole complex should be locked up, but then it was decided that the people must be allowed to see for themselves. We shall carry out an inventory of his personal and official belongings later."

Celebrations in Independence Square Celebrations in Independence Square The doors to the residence were locked but members of the public were invited to range freely everywhere else. They took up the offer with alacrity: hundreds of cars soon packed the road to the estate, with families, protesters and the media crowding along.

Leana and Sergei Osanko had brought along their four-year-old daughter, Masha. Mrs Osanko said: "We haven't really had much chance to go out anywhere as a family because of all the troubles. My daughter liked puppet shows, but they had stopped. Once she gets a bit older, I'll explain to her how Yanukovych used to treat us like puppets. He played with us, while living in all this!"

Anton Yevtushenko was standing near by, shaking his head. "Do you know, I am a policeman and even most of us would not have been allowed in here. It was just for the people he trusted." He then hastily corrected himself: "What I meant was that I used to be a policeman, not any longer. Anyway, not even our very senior officers, some of whom have made a lot of money, would be able to live like this."

The President, his two sons and his coterie had amassed a fortune over the years, one of the many complaints directed against him, but his aesthetic taste was called into question. The residence was a strange amalgam of a Swiss chalet, a French period house and a Russian dacha. "Yanukovych Baroque?" someone suggested.

A protester outside the presidential residence A protester outside the presidential residence Sergei Lysenko, an art director, had firm views: "I would like to wring the neck of the architect who designed this, but I suppose he was forced to do this. And Yanukovych has been guilty of much more serious crimes than crimes against taste."

In the morning, at Kiev's Independence Square, the Maidan, they were accusing him of being a murderer. Two more bodies of protesters were laid out before the stage, the centrepiece of the city centre area, occupied since the beginning of the current upheaval when Mr Yanukovych refused to sign an accord with the European Union.

Orthodox priests delivered prayers amid wafting incense over the open caskets and bereaved women wept quietly. But this was also a military ceremony, with the helmets and body armour of the fallen pair laid out and the orations full of the need to continue fighting until the false leader had been driven out.

There were denunciations of the agreement signed by the main political parties with the President on Friday, brokered by the European Union, which was supposed to bring the crisis to a close. "The opposition leadership had failed us. They had given our names to something without consulting us. This will not be accepted," said one speaker. "We will not be giving anything up until that criminal resigns and is brought on trial."

Yanukovych speaking on TV earlier today Yanukovych speaking on TV earlier today Later, the news that Mr Yanukovych was in Kharkiv, a region with pro-Russian sympathies, caused apprehension that he might be planning a counter-attack. Groups of protesters, among them a right-wing faction which had been prominent in street clashes with the police, were calling up reinforcements.

Pressing the opposition to accept the compromise deal of last Friday, EU foreign ministers had warned that a failure to do so would lead to draconian action by the government. One of the brokers, Radek Sikorski of Poland, was heard telling a protest leader: "If you don't support this deal, you will have martial law. The army will come in. You will all be dead."

But it was becoming clear that the security forces, at least in the capital and the west of the country, were losing their appetites for the mounting violence that had culminated in the killings of 77 people last week. Such was the sheer lack of any visible sign of law enforcement in Kiev that a man chasing a thief who had taken his money in the city centre gave up after repeatedly shouting for police help. He then tried calling two police stations, but no one answered.

Others, however, were taking advantage of the situation to do a bit of sightseeing, walking up to the parliament and government ministries. "This was something we could not do for four years, ever since Yanukovych took over. Long before the protests, these places were always surrounded by security. He was so paranoid," Oleysa, a business executive, explained.

At the presidential estate in Mezhyhirya, there was a laboratory where official meals were supposedly tested in case of attempted poisoning. "We are checking to see if they actually found any poison, so we can keep it for when he returns," grinned Viktor Tereshchenko, an activist. " All these precautions – but this shows, when your time comes, you have to go."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015