Ukraine protesters seize president's office

Last updated 00:40 23/02/2014

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Protesters have taken control of Ukraine's capital, seizing the president's home and office as parliament sought to oust him.

An aide to President Viktor Yanukovych said he had left the capital for his support base in the country's Russian-speaking east, but that he has no intention of abandoning power.

In a special parliament session, lawmakers warned that the country risks being split in two. The country's western regions want to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych's authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine - which accounts for the bulk of the nation's economic output - favors closer ties with Russia.

Hanna Herman, a close Yanukovych ally, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the president is visiting Kharkiv, a city in Ukraine's east which is the heart of his support base.

"As much as some people want it, he has no intention to leave the country," Herman said. She said the president was to meet voters in the region and make a televised address.

The trip comes a day after Yanukovych and opposition leaders signed a European-brokered agreement aimed at resolving the months-old political crisis that has killed scores and injured hundreds.

The agreement calls for early elections and constitutional reforms that reduce the president's powers.

The protesters, who are angry over corruption and want Ukraine to move toward Europe rather than Russia, claimed full control of Kiev and took up positions around the president's office and residence.

Parliament, only a day ago controlled by Yanukovych supporters, was considering whether to impeach him and set a quick date for new elections to end a three-month standoff that has turned into a national crisis over Ukraine's identity and future direction.

Despite significant concessions by Yanukovych on Friday, protesters said his offer of elections late this year aren't soon enough.

"Resign! Resign!" chanted protesters on Independence Square, the nucleus of the protest movement.

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- AP

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