Newly freed former Ukranian PM Tymoshenko says ‘dictatorship has fallen’

Statement from arch-rival of embattled President Victor Yanukovich released on official website

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Yulia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian opposition icon and arch-rival of embattled President Victor Yanukovich, declared Saturday “the dictatorship has fallen” as she walked free under a resolution passed by parliament that reversed her 2011 conviction, as a dramatic political crisis shook the nation.

“The dictatorship has fallen,” Tymoshenko said in a statement released on her official website. “It fell thanks to those people who came out to defend themselves, their families and their country,” according to Agence France-Presse.

The statement comes shortly after Tymoshenko’s release from hospital, where she was being detained.

Parliament had arranged the release of Yanukovich’s arch-rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, but the president – whose grip on power has crumbled as he abandoned the capital Kiev on Saturday - said he would not recognize any of the lawmakers’ decisions as valid.

The 53-year-old, instantly recognizable for her peasant-style braided blonde hair, shot to fame with her impassioned speeches against a rigged poll won by Yanukovich in 2004.

Politically motivated

With the post-Soviet establishment removed, Tymoshenko became prime minister, but then fell out with her fellow Orange revolutionaries.

After Yanukovich beat her to the presidency in 2010, she was jailed in 2011 over a gas deal she signed with Russia – in a trial that was denounced by much of the West as politically motivated.

Yanukovich, meanwhile, refused to order her release.

She spent much of her incarceration in hospital for a back problem in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

(With AFP and Reuters)