Ukraine's opp leader freed, speaks to protesters

  • AP, Kiev
  • |
  • Updated: Feb 23, 2014 02:36 IST
  • A Priest

    A priest holds a cross and a combat helmet during a funeral service for two anti-governent protesters who were killed after days of violence in ...

  • Ukraine protesters

    Anti-government protesters are transported in a truck in the Independence Square in Kiev. (Reuters Photo)

  • Ukraine

    A woman makes the sign of the cross in front of a flower covered wall in the Independence Square in Kiev. (Reuters Photo)

  • A poster showing jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is seen in the Independence Square in Kiev. (Reuters Photo)

  • An alleged sniper (C) and member of the pro-government forces is beaten by anti-government protestors in Kiev. (AFP Photo)

  • Members of Berkut anti-riot unit embark in a bus as they leave their barracks in Kiev. (Reuters Photo)

  • People pay their respects during a funeral service for two anti-governent protesters who were killed after days of violence in Kiev. (Reuters Photo)

  • An effigy of an anti-government protester stands at a barricade near Kiev's Independence square. (Reuters Photo)

Hours after being released from prison, former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko praised the demonstrators killed in violence this week as heroes as she addressed a massive crowd at the protester encampment in Kiev on Saturday.

The 53-year-old Tymoshenko, who suffered severe back problems during her 2 and a half years in prison, spoke to the crowd from a wheelchair and appeared close to exhaustion.

But her flair for vivid words was undimmed.

"You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine!" she said of those killed in the violence. The health ministry on Saturday said the death toll in clashes between protesters and police that included sniper attacks had reached 82.

Saturday's appearance brought Tymoshenko back to the square where she attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, a riveting figure then for her rhetoric, her elaborate blond peasant braid and her fashionable clothing.

After the protests forced the rerun of a presidential election nominally won by her foe Viktor Yanukovych, Tymoshenko became prime minister. But when Yanukovych won the 2010 election, Tymoshenko was arrested and put on trial for abuse of office, an action widely seen as political revenge.

Now Yanukovych once again appears on the wane and Tymoshenko on the rise. After Friday's agreement between the president and the opposition that reduced Yanukovych's powers, Yanukovych has gone to Kharkiv in his support base of eastern Ukraine, leaving the capital effectively in the control of the opposition.


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