The Ukrainian parliament has voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovich, who had abandoned his office after a week of fighting in the capital Kiev. The parliament also freed his rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, completing a radical transformation in the former Soviet republic.
The apparent toppling of the pro-Russian leader, after bloodshed in Kiev that saw 77 deaths and the capital turning into an inferno, is likely to pull Ukraine away from Moscow's orbit. It is a stark reversal for Russian President Putin's dream of recreating the Soviet Union into a new Eurasian Union, in which he had banked on Yanukovich to deliver Ukraine as a central member. The Ukrainian parliament applauded and sang the national anthem after it removed the president and set an early election for May 25.
Yanukovich had angered the people by turning away from the European Union to cultivate closer relations with Russia while making sweeping concessions in the deal. But the deal, which called for elections by the year-end, was not enough to satisfy pro-Europe demonstrators on Independence Square, known as the "Euro-Maidan", who wanted Yanukovich out instantly.