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Protesters take over capital; president calls it a coup

Saturday - 2/22/2014, 3:50pm  ET

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Protesters have taken control of Ukraine's capital, seizing the office of President Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH'-vich) as parliament voted to remove him and hold new elections.

Parliament also arranged the release of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (YOOL'-yah tee-moh-SHEN'-koh), a Yanukovych rival, who promised to run for president.

Yanukovych is refusing to recognize any of the lawmakers' decisions as valid. He described the events as a coup and insisted he would not step down.

He has left Kiev for his support base in the country's Russian-speaking east.

The events are raising fears that the country could split in two -- a Europe-leaning west and a Russian-leaning east and south.

Meanwhile, Russia is accusing Ukraine's opposition of failing to fulfill its side of a peace deal intended to end the nation's political crisis.

Russia's foreign minister says the opposition "keeps making new demands under the influence of armed extremists and rioters." Sergey Lavrov (SEHR'-gay LAHV'-rahf) has been calling Western leaders, including Secretary of State John Kerry, urging them to intervene.

Clashes between protesters and security forces this week have left scores dead.

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