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Ukrainian crisis: February 26 (live updates)

LB.ua chronicles the latest events in Ukraine in English for foreign readers.

Ukrainian crisis: February 26 (live updates)
Tatars protesting in Simferopol
Фото: crimea.vgorode.ua

Read previous news on the topic:

Ukrainian crisis: February 25

Ukrainian crisis: February 24

On Jan. 16 the Verkhovna Rada adopted more than a dozen of controversial amendments to a law 'On the Judicial System and Status of Judges' and the procedural laws regarding additional measures to protect the safety of citizens. Most opposition politicians, international organizations and European countries consider these laws a violation of basic constitutional rights of 45 million citizens of Ukraine.

On Jan. 19, clashes broke out between Euromaidan protesters and police on Hrushevskoho Street in the centre of Kyiv, after radical protesters decided to break through the police cordon in the direction of the Government House and the Verkhovna Rada. At least six people were killed during two weeks of unprecedented politically-linked violence in Kyiv.

Now opposition leaders - Arseniy Yatsenyuk ('Batkivshchyna'), Vitali Klitschko ('UDAR') and Oleg Tyagnibok ('Svoboda') - are trying to put an end to the political crisis in Ukraine.

On Jan. 24 Euromaidan supporters started seizing buildings of regional state administration all over Ukraine. Some attempts were successful.

On Jan. 25 President Viktor Yanukovich offered the opposition several top government posts. Thus, Yanukovich offered Arseny Yatseniyuk the post of prime minister to replace Nykolai Azarov, whose government would be expected to resign. Vitali Klitschko, a former international boxing champion, would be appointed deputy prime minister responsible for humanitarian issues. But opposition leaders, supported by thousands of protesters massing in Kyiv's city centre, continued to press for further concessions, including early elections and the repeal of an anti-protest law.

On Jan. 28 Ukrainian Prime Minister Nykolai Azarov resigned, and a series of sweeping anti-protest laws, adopted hastily in response to increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police, were abolished by parliament.

On Jan. 29 the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, approved a law that would grant an amnesty to arrested protesters, but depended on the demonstrators vacating all occupied government buildings. After 12 hours of negotiations the amnesty was agreed by 232 votes from the Regions Party members and the Communist Party amid applause from the 'regionals' and angry shouts 'Shame!' from the opposition.

Now the EU is considering sanctions against Ukraine. In the mean time, former Ukrainian Interior Minister and head of the public organization 'Ukrainian Third Republic' Yuriy Lutsenko said there is no point in negotiating between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich, and called on the Ukrainians to join the ranks of Euromaidan self-defence units.

Individual MP Pyotr Poroshenko, in his turn, announced the establishment of an international commission to investigate crimes of the Ukrainian authorities against Euromaidan protesters.

The opposition, buoyed by Western expressions of support, pressed on Feb. 4, in parliament for a return to a previous constitution of 2004, which would mean Yanukovich losing some of the key powers he has accumulated since being elected in 2010. These include appointing the prime minister and entire government as well as regional governors. The opposition also wants an unconditional amnesty for protesters detained in the unrest to be broadened into an unconditional pardon for all those being held by police.

So far the authorities and the opposition haven't managed to reach a compromise on a return to the constitution of 2004. Some activists still remain in custody, and Euromaidan protesters still occupy government building in Kyiv.

On Feb. 16 the Interior Ministry confirmed protesters have met all the conditions necessary to bring the amnesty law into effect. A conditional amnesty law that exempts detained protesters from criminal charges has been implemented on Feb. 17.

On Feb. 18-20 gun battles between police and anti-government protesters resulted in the death toll of 83 people (some of them died from wounds in the following days). In the evening of Feb.19 Viktor Yanukovich said he had agreed firstly a truce and secondly 'the start to negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed, and stabilizing the situation in the state in the interests of social peace'. Earlier in the day, riot police snipers were captured on video shooting from a rooftop at demonstrators in the central plaza, Independence Square. In turn, protesters hurled petrol bombs and paving stones to drive the security forces off a corner of the square the police had captured in battles that began two days earlier.

On Feb. 21 Ukraine's parliament voted in favor of returning to the constitution of 2004 under which President Viktor Yanukovich would lose some of his powers. Russian-backed Yanukovich fled Kyiv by helicopter.

On Feb. 22 deputy chairman of 'Batkivshchyna' opposition faction Alexander Turchinov, hositle to Yanukovich, was appointed Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada. Later in the day the parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovich, declaring him constitutionally unable to carry out his duties, after three months of street protests, while his arch-rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko hailed opposition demonstrators as 'heroes' in an emotional speech in Kyiv after she was released from jail. Moreover the assembly called a presidential election for May 25.

On the same day President Viktor Yanukovich compared the situation in Ukraine to Germany in the 1930s, when Nazi leader Adolf Hitler came to power. 63-year-old leader said he was ignoring the vote and still considered himself head of state. Later he abandoned Kyiv to the opposition and denounced what he described as a coup. Then Ukraine's border authorities said it had refused to allow President Viktor Yanukovich to leave the country. Some armed men had tried to bribe border staff at Donetsk airport in the east of the country to allow the charter flight to take off, but they had refused. Thus, Yanukovich subsequently got off the plane and left in a waiting car.

As of Feb. 24 fugitive President Viktor Yanukovich is wanted on an arrest warrant for mass murder. His whereabouts remain unknown. Some members of the Party of Regions and criminal regime supporters fled the country. Also, cash-strapped Ukraine appealed for urgent financial assistance to prevent a default, saying it needed $35 billion over two years to stop the economy 'heading into the abyss'.

Kyiv's chances of receiving the remaining $12 billion of a $15-billion bailout package agreed with Russia in December, after Ukraine spurned an EU trade deal, seem to have receded since Moscow, which backed Yanukovich, says it won't release the next $2-billion tranche until it knows who will be in the government. It also says any extension of a deal cutting the price Kyiv pays for Russian gas (part of December's wider financial deal) - must be negotiated with Ukrainian companies and the government.

In the evening of Feb. 24 most of the ministers under Yanukovшch were dismissed.

00:23. The assertions of the Russian Foreign Ministry on threats to civil rights, in particular, to representatives of national minorities and religions are false and based on unproven facts, says a statemnet of Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, published by the department of information policy.

01:14. Sevastopol administration officials refuse to report to Russian citizen Alexey Chaliy, 'mayor' of the city chosen on the pro-Russian rally on Sunday, Feb. 23. On Monday Sevastopol City Council created an executive body - municipal government to ensure city's life. Chaliy was supposed to create the regulations of the executive committee.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25 Alexey Chaliy said that officials refuse to obey him, and his people were not allowed to enter the building of Sevastopol administration.

07:59. Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has signed a decree on the elimination of 'Berkut' riot police.

08:35. Deputy Head of the Verkhovna Rada's Committee on freedom of speech and information Igor Miroshnichenko ('Svoboda' faction) has called for the creation of the Ministry of freedom of speech and information.

08:55. Organization for combating financial crime of the U.S. Treasury has encouraged financial institutions to track the movement of funds in the accounts of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

09:10. Russia's Black Sea Fleet servicemen have become more active in Crimea.

Journalists videotaped two army trucks with Russian soldiers in the city of Yalta.

When journalists asked what Russian servicemen were doing, a man in civilian clothes began shouting at them and demanded to remove the camera.

Trucks with Russian plates in Yalta

09:30. Today, Feb. 26, residents of Lvov will speak Russian in solidarity with the East and South of Ukraine. In its turn, Donetsk (eastern mainly pro-Russian city) will speak Ukrainian.

09:42. General Prosecutor of Ukraine has dismissed Kyiv's prosecutor Nikolai Bezkishkiy, reported the press service of the Ministry.

10:01. Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people has called on local residents to convene to a rally against separatism. The protest action starts at 11:00 am at the walls of the Crimean parliament, under the slogan 'Saving Ukraine's territorial integrity and prevention of the adoption by the Supreme Council of Crimea of solutions aimed at destabilizing the situation in the autonomy'.

10:11. The International Monetary Fund is ready to send a mission to Ukraine asap, stated head of the fund Christine Lagarde.

10:20. Updated information for those who want to help the families of the victims: contact details and bank accounts of their relatives (link).

10:20. Chairman of the Coordinating Council of Sevastopol city administration Alexey Chaliy has invited soldiers of disbanded 'Berkut' riot police to the city.

10:33. Family of Acting President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada Speaker Aleksandr Turchynov has business in the field of cinema, internet and real estate.

10:44. Acting President Aleksandr Turchynov has become the supreme commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

10:54. Alexander Turchynov has dismissed Andrey Klyuyev from the post of the head of the Presidential Administration, and Andrey Portnov - from the post of the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration.

11:04. Russian gas supplies to Ukraine on Monday, Feb. 24, dropped by several times - from 147 million cubic meters to 28 million cubic meters of gas per day. This was due to the warm weather, stressed acting Energy Minister Eduard Stawicki.

11:05. Acting President Alexander Turchynov signed a decree on dismissal of the head of the State Administration Andrey Kravets.

11:10. Aleksandr Turchynov has ordered Deputy head of Presidential Administration Oleg Rafalski to temporarily perform the duties of the PA head.

11:14. Checkpoints guarded by public units, police patrols and traffic police were installed at all entrances to Sevastopol during the last night.

11:22. Three presidents of Ukraine - Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko - have declared the direct intervention of Russia in the political life of Crimea.

11:49. Aleksandr Turchynov has signed the third law prohibiting harassment of Euromaidan protesters.

12:05. Russia can play on the separatist sentiment in the south-eastern part of Ukraine, but the risk of the country's division is minimal, stated the Gorshenin Institute head Vadim Omelchenko in an interview with French edition Les Echos.

According to him, the most delicate issue now is the southern city of Sevastopol.

12:08. Acting President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada Speaker Aleksandr Turchynov on Wednesday, Feb. 26, has given instructions to dismantle the fence around Parliament's building in order to provide free free access to the territory adjacent to it.

12:25. Fortune of Viktor Yanukovich's family reaches $12 billion, so the first thing Kyiv needs to do is to stabilize Ukraine's economy aтd confiscate these funds, wrote authoritative economist, former advisor to the Ukrainian government Anders Aslund article in an article on the Financial Times.

12:28. About 300 people with St. George's ribbons and the Communist Party flags have hung Russia's flag on one of the flagpoles in Kharkov. EU flag was removed and torn, but Ukraine's flag remained untouched.

12:32. About 5000 Crimean Tatar people are holding mass rally in front of the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea in Sevastopol. At the same time, there are some pro-Russian meeting ongoing. Police built a cordon between the participants of the meetings to avoid hassles.

Crimean Tatar people

12:57. Participants of anti-separatist rally in Sevastopol have broken through a police cordon and stopped in the inner courtyard of the parliament. At least one pro-Russian activist suffered minor injuries (pictures).

13:12. Parliament's Commissioner for Human Rights monitored the observance of the rights of children during protests in Ukraine. According to the results of monitoring at least 15 children were detained and beaten by law enforcement officials, reported the press service of the Ombudsman.

13:18. 'Batkivschyna' faction MP, Police General Gennady Moskal has published a plan of agent and operational measures to neutralize Euromaidan, prepared by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

'The plan confirms the long-known truth - there are SBU agent in opposition parties and civil organizations', - he stressed.

13:37. The prosecutor's office in Kyiv region has opened investigation into abuse of the grave of one of the victims of the 'Heavenly hundred' (activists, who died during the protests).

'Unidentified men have taken from memorial wreaths from the grave and burned them, abused a photograph of the deceased. They lit a fire near the tomb of the hero', says a statement.

13:44. Number of former senior officials of Ukraine have been announced under suspicion of criminal proceedings into the killings during events at Kyiv's Independence Square in Nov. 2013 - Feb. 2014, reported the press service of the Prosecutor General.

In particular, the suspicion was announced to Viktor Yanukovich, Andrey Klyuyev, Viktor Pshonka, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, Alexander Yakymenko, Stanislav Shulyak and others.

13:49. Belarus can replace food supplies from Ukraine to the Russian market, stated Russian Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov.

14:11. Ukraine's General Prosecutor's Office, in coordination with the Main Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry, has established a number of individuals involved in the abduction of public activists Yury Lutsenko and Igor Verbitsky, and murder of Verbitsky, reported the press service of the GPU.

Yuri Verbitsky was kidnapped from a hospital in Kyiv along with another activist - Igor Lutsenko - in the morning of January 21. Lutsenko has brought Verbitsky to the hospital with an eye injury. Later Verbitsky's body was found in Boryspol district of Kyiv region.

14:20. A group of American experts to advise on immediate economic reforms has arrived to Kyiv, announced U.S. Undersecretary of State William Byrne. He also called Kyiv on forming multi-party government.

14:24. Main Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry on Wednesday detained the perpetrators of the abduction of public activists Igor Lutsenko and murder of Yuri Verbitsky, wrote Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on Facebook.

14:32. Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has said that new riot police unit will be created instead of 'Berkut'. This unit will include former 'Berkut' employees after recertification.

14:51. Acting leadership of 'Ukrpochta' in an emergency procedure has organized tenders to urgently withdraw money from the company, told LB.ua source close to the national postal operator.

14:52. Chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov has said that information spread by some media that today at a special plenary session of the Council MPs plan to take drastic decisions until the release of Crimea from Ukraine was false.

14:59. President of the National Academy of Medical Sciences Andrey Serdyuk wrote a letter of resignation. Later he said that he made such a step under pressure from Euromaidan activists. The latter claim that they wanted to talk with him about real health care reform and thus reminded Serdyuk of criminal proceedings against employees of the Academy and other things.

15:05. All participants of Euromaidan self-defence will remove their masks and get rid of the weapons, said the newly appointed Deputy Interior Minister Nikolay Velickovic, who had been deputy coordinator of the Maidan self-defence, 'Batkivschyna' MP Andrey Parubiy.

15:14. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine MP Aleksandr Dubovoi believes that Kyiv is now facing one of the most important tasks - to prevent separatism in South-Eastern regions and Crimea, and to preserve the integrity and indivisibility of the state.

15:23. Minister of Resorts and Tourism of Crimea Aleksandr Liev has initiated Museum of Lenin in the open air on Lenin Square in the village of Lenine in Leninsky District of Crimea.

15:38. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the Defense Ministry to carry out a comprehensive review of sudden readiness of the Western and Central military districts, as well as a number of branches located on the border with Ukraine.

15:57. Ukrainian security officials have refused to take action to search Viktor Yanukovich in Crimea in order to avoid provoking clashes, announced Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov at a press briefing on Wednesday.

16:10. Chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov has closed session of the Crimean parliament because it failed to raise a quorum.

16:20. Volunteer of the Fourth Cossack hundred of Euromaidan self-defence Mikhail Gavriliouk, who was mocked by 'Berkut' riot police (video), has said that during clashes on Feb. 18 two soldiers from his 'hundred' were beheaded by 'titushki' (hired AntiMaidan activists).

Mikhail Gavriliouk: they were beheaded

16:26. Former head of the Presidential Administration Andrey Klyuyev has stated his willingness to assist the competent authorities in the investigation of the events in Ukraine related to obstruction of protests. He also said, he had nothing to do with the tragic events.

16:57. European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule has said that new Ukrainian authorities should be politically and geographically representative, and justice must be fair and without retaliation.

17:03. The Party of Regions is preparing for the Congress to nominate presidential candidate. In this regard, the party has discussed three candidates - Sergey Tigipko, Aleksandr Yefremov and Nestor Shufrich. LB.ua learned about this from its own sources in the Party of Regions.

17:22. A body of an unknown elderly man with no signs of injury has been discovered during a rally outside the Supreme Council of Crimea, reported the press office of the Ministry of Health of Crimea. Medics said he died of a heart attack.

17:28. In recent years, the business gave bribes equal to half of its turnover. Thus, officials illegally received more than 160 billion UAH (~$20 billion) annually only from the main areas of corruption in the legal trade, stated head of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine businessman Dmitry Firtash.

17:31. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said that the sudden checking of the Russian Armed Forces had nothing to do with the events in Ukraine.

17:35. Kharkov region Governor Mikhail Dobkin has resigned in connection with the intention to run for presidency.

17:38. Britain will pay attention to Russian military moves and oppose outside interference in Ukraine, the British defence secretary Philip Hammond said on Wednesday after Moscow ordered an urgent drill to test its armed forces across western Russia.

17:52. Russian VTB Bank has suspended lending in Ukraine both for ordinary citizens and companies, said its president Andrey Kostin. He assured that VTB Ukraine has a lot of long-term work plans for the country. Another Russian bank - Sberbank of Russia - had done the same last week.

17:59. Ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has been placed into international wanted list, stated Acting Attorney General Oleg Mahnitskiy.

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