Ukraine President Yanukovych has promised to resign: Lawmaker

KIEV (AFP) - A member of Ukraine's Parliament said on Saturday that President Viktor Yanukovych has promised to submit his resignation in response to violence that left nearly 100 dead in anti-government unrest.

Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) opposition party lawmaker Mykola Katerynchuk told reporters that Ukraine's embattled leader said he would resign in a conversation with protest leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

“Yatsenyuk demanded in the name of Maidan that Yanukovych resign,” the lawmaker said in reference to the mass anti-government protests that have been raging on central Kiev’s Independence Square since Yanukovych rejected an historic EU trade deal in November.

“Yanukovych promised to put it in writing and we are waiting for him to do so,” Dr Katerynchuk said.

Rumours of the embattled leader’s imminent departure from power have swirled around Kiev since Mr Yanukovych and three top opposition leaders signed a deal on Friday aimed at ending Ukraine’s worst crisis since its post-Soviet independence.

The peace pact shifts most political powers towards Parliament and away from the presidency. Mr Yanukovych also agreed to move forward March 2015 elections to December and quickly appoint a new coalition government.

But the protest movement has radicalised considerably in the days since the police first opened fire against protesters in the heart of Kiev on Tuesday night.

Mr Yanukovych left Kiev late on Friday for the industrial eastern city of Kharkiv – a bedrock of the president’s pro-Russian support.

A spokesman for the president said Mr Yanukovych was planning to meet voters in Kharkiv and make a local television appearance.

Meanwhile, jailed opposition icon and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from prison, according to Xinhua, quoting the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Hours earlier, her ally Alexandr Turchinov was elected Parliament speaker in place of Volodymyr Rybak, who resigned due to health reasons.

Mr Turchinov served as first deputy prime minister in Ms Tymoshenko's government from 2007 to 2010.