Ukraine leader has become Russia puppet, jailed Tymoshenko says
Ukraine's leader has become a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is unable to take independent decisions on the country's future, jailed opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko said in an interview Saturday, calling on her bitter foe to step down.
Anti-government protests have rocked Ukraine for more than two months after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a key EU trade pact that would have seen the country move closer to the European Union in favour of tighter ties with Soviet-era master Russia.
The decision sent shockwaves through pro-EU parts of the population and they launched protests that have morphed into a wider, geopolitical tussle over whether the future of Ukraine is with Russia or the West.
"Our European friends believe that after long negotiations and loans they can bring Yanukovych back onto the European road," Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was imprisoned in 2011, said in an interview with weekly Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.
"They will not be able to do that. Because it's not Yanukovych who decides, but Putin.
"We must get rid of Ukraine's president who no longer takes independent decisions, in a legal manner", she said, adding that global players now perceived Ukraine as "Russia's minority partner."
Soon after Yanukovych rejected the EU pact, Russia announced it would give Ukraine a $15-billion bailout and has already paid out a $3.0-billion tranche.
"If Vladimir Putin spent $50 billion on the Sochi Olympic Games, he will spend whatever it takes for Ukraine," Tymoshenko said.
The protests dragged on through December and January, but when they turned violent at the end of last month, leaving four dead and more than 500 injured, Yanukovych began negotiating with the opposition.
He dismissed his unpopular government and announced that all protesters detained since the movement began would be given an amnesty in exchange for the evacuation of public buildings currently occupied by demonstrators.
On Friday, authorities announced that all the detainees had been released, and that charges against them would be dropped within a month from February 18 if the conditions of the amnesty were met.
While the opposition has agreed to vacate parts of Grushevsky street -- the scene of the violent riots last month -- to allow traffic to move freely, protesters on Saturday showed no signs of vacating occupied buildings or removing the barricades.
Like many other protesters on the ground, Tymoshenko said Yanukovych himself had to go.
"The only subject of negotiation with Yanukovych is the conditions of his departure," she said.
© 2014 AFP