Hours after opposition leaders and the Ukrainian president signed a deal aimed at ending month-long deadly clashes, the country’s parliament voted to free Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister jailed for more than two years for what supporters say are politically tainted charges.
Friday’s agreement calls for an early election, a new constitution and a new unity government. Ukraine's newly empowered Verhovna Rada parliament responded to the deal quickly, firing the country's despised interior minister Vitali Zakharchenko, who is widely blamed for ordering police violence, including the snipers who killed scores of protesters Thursday in central Kiev.
The next order of business was Tymoshenko.
``We are insisting that there is a vote on a bill which would free Tymoshenko,'' former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk told parliament, Reuters reported. Yatsenyuk is the new head of Tymoshenko’s Bativshchyna (Fatherland) party since she was jailed.
Tymoshenko-- a long-standing rival of President Viktor Yanukovich-- was narrowly defeated by him in 2010 in a run-off for the presidency. She received a 7-year prison sentence in 2011 for abuse of office linked to a gas deal she brokered with Russia as prime minister, after a trial the European Union denounced as political.
Legislators voted 310-54 Friday to decriminalize the count under which she was imprisoned, meaning that she is no longer guilty of a criminal offense.
"Free Yulia! Free Yulia!" legislators chanted after the vote.
It's not immediately clear when she might be released from the jail in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.