MOSCOW, February 22 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s parliament voted Saturday to release former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from jail in a session that also saw the appointment of a new Interior Minister and the dismissal of the country’s top prosecutor.
Applause broke out in the Verkhovna Rada as 322 out of the 331 deputies present approved a decree for the release of Tymoshenko, an avowed foe of embattled President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Associated Press news agency cited a representative for Tymoshenko as saying Saturday afternoon that she had already been released from detention in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Meanwhile, uncertainty persisted about the exact whereabouts of Yanukovych, whom several reports had suggested had left the capital, Kiev, for a destination unknown. Some media claimed he had departed for the east of the country, a heavily ethnic Russian-populated region where most of his supporters live.
In another development in parliament, deputies voted to appoint a member of Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party, Arsen Avakov, as Interior Minister.
Avakov will be replacing outgoing Interior Minister, Vitaly Zakharchenko, who the opposition charge with being responsible for the crackdown on government opponents that culminated in violence this week in which at least 80 people were killed.
Another Tymoshenko ally, Alexander Turchinov, was approved as speaker of the parliament, replacing a close Yanukovych associate.
Developments on Saturday came a day after parliament granted a key opposition demand by restoring the 2004 constitution, designed to limit presidential powers and make Ukraine a parliamentary republic. The deal overseen by EU envoys and Kremlin-appointed mediator stated that an interim government should be formed in the coming days.