Crisis threatens to split Ukraine

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Ukraine Protest KIEV, FEB 22- The crisis in Ukraine threatened to split the country along East-West fault lines as President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev for pro-Russian Kharkiv accusing the opposition of staging a coup.

Hours after he signed an accord with the opposition to end a three-month long stand off, Mr. Yanukovych lost the grip on power in Kiev and flew to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city, denouncing the events in the capital as “vandalism, banditry and a coup d’etat.”

Opposition lawmakers, boosted by defectors from the ruling party, voted on Saturday to “approve the resignation” of Mr. Yanukovych and call new elections for May 25. This contravenes the agreement between Mr. Yanukovych and the opposition, which called for new elections to be held before the end of the year.

Mr. Yanukovych went on local television in Kharkiv to state that he was still the legitimate President and would do all in his power to “protect the people” and “end the bloodshed.”

“I will not resign and will not leave the country,” Mr. Yanukovych said. “I will not sign anything with bandits who are terrorising the country.”

Mr. Yanukovych was expected to sign into law a resolution of the Parliament passed on Friday for the return to the Constitution of 2004, which curbed the powers of the President in favour of the Parliament. An emergency meeting of officials and lawmakers of the eastern regions in Kharkiv accused the opposition of breaking the terms of accord with Mr. Yanukovych and resolved “to assume full responsibility for maintaining law and order, the rights and safety of the people on their territories” until “constitutional law and order is restored” in the country.

The activists also occupied Mr. Yanukovych’s residence outside Kiev and opened it to the public for sightseeing. In a breach of the deal between Mr. Yanukovych and the opposition protesters refused to surrender their arms and continued their vigil in Kiev.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the European Foreign Ministers “shared the Russian concerns, admitted the non-compliance by the opposition of some of its obligations and promised to take urgent additional steps to ensure implementation of the agreements.”

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