Ukraine Names Interim President After Removing Yanukovich; Protesters Hail Victory

(Photo: Reuters/Alex Kuzmin)Newly-elected speaker of parliament Oleksander Turchinov speaks with opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk (L) during a parliament session in Kiev February 23, 2014. Turchinov, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and the closest confidante of freed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, was temporarily handed the role of president on Sunday following the ouster of Viktor Yanukovich.

The parliament in Ukraine has named its speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, as interim president following the dismissal of President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday.

After three months of anti-government protests that killed at least 82 people, the parliament of Ukraine Saturday voted to remove Yanukovich in a move that is a major setback to Russia and a big development for Europe and the United States.

The vote in the parliament to remove pro-Russian Yanukovich was followed by the release of former prime minister and his main opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, from jail.

The parliament of the former Soviet Union republic declared Yanukovich constitutionally unable to carry out his duties, after Yanukovich fled his residence to an unknown location on Saturday.

(Photo: Reuters)Ukraine priests speaking to the crowd at the backdrop of armed guards in this February 2014 photo.

After her release, Tymoshenko, seen by some as a political prisoner and who might now become president, said Ukraine would certainly join the European Union in the near future. "This is a Ukraine of different people. The ones who died on Maidan are our liberators, our heroes for centuries," she was quoted as saying.

Anti-government demonstrations began last November after the Yanukovich administration suspended preparations for signing an Association Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, in favor of closer economic relations with Russia.

The protesters had been demanding the ouster of Yanukovich not just because of their desire for the nation's closer European integration, but also due to alleged corruption and elitism by his government.

Yanukovich's cabinet chose not to resist his ouster and instead promised a transition to a new government. The police and military also indicated they are now with the protesters.

However, Yanukovich himself called the parliament's move a coup d'état and "illegal." He appeared in a television interview saying he will neither resign nor leave the country. "The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d'état," he said.

Kiev's Independence Square, also known as Maidan and where the protests were taking place, had tens of thousands of protesters who appeared in buoyant mood for the first time in three months Saturday night.

The mood was somber, too. Coffins were displayed in front of the crowd and priests were seen saying prayers.

Yanukovich's ouster comes three days after he agreed to a "truce" with opposition leaders. Protests as well as the government's crackdown carried on despite the alleged agreement.

U.S. and European leaders condemned the dozens of deaths in clashes between protesters and security forces beginning Tuesday.