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Ukraine: President’s whereabouts unclear

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Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses the crowd in central Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses the crowd in central Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

In this image made from video released by the Regional Administration of Kharkiv and distributed by AP Video, Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine, speaks in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Protesters took control of Ukraine’s capital Saturday, seizing the president’s office as parliament voted to remove him and hold new elections. Yanukovych described the events as a coup and insisted he would not step down. After a tumultuous week that left scores dead and Ukraine’s political destiny in flux, fears mounted that the country could split in two — a Europe-leaning west and a Russian-leaning east and south. (AP Photo / Regional Administration of Kharkiv)

People raise their fists during a rally in Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Protesters in the Ukrainian capital claimed full control of the city Saturday following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation’s three-month political crisis. The nation’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, reportedly had fled the capital for his support base in Ukraine’s Russia-leaning east. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

People listen to former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in central Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. 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.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses the crowd in central Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. 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.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The whereabouts of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych were unclear on Sunday, a day after he left the capital and his arch foe Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from prison and returned to Kiev to address a massive, adoring crowd.

Ukrainian news agencies, citing the deputy head of the State Border Service, reported that a chartered airplane with Yanukovych onboard was denied permission to take off from Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is the president’s base of support.

The center of Kiev, meanwhile, was calm as the sun came up Sunday after a day that saw a stunning reversal of fortune in Ukraine’s political crisis.

Protesters on Saturday took control of the presidential administration building, and thousands of curious and contemptuous Ukrainians roamed the suddenly open grounds of the lavish compound outside Kiev where Yanukovych was believed to live.

Parliament, which he controlled the previous day but is now emboldened against him, called for his removal and for elections on May 25. But Yanukovych said he now regards the parliament as illegitimate and he won’t respect its decisions.

The political crisis in the nation of 46 million, strategically important for Europe, Russia and the United States, has changed with blinding speed repeatedly in the past week. First there were signs that tensions were easing, followed by horrifying violence and then a deal signed under Western pressure that aimed to resolve the conflict but left the unity of the country in question.

Tymoshenko, whose diadem of blond peasant braids and stirring rhetoric attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution, was both sad and excited as she spoke to a crowd of about 50,000 on Kiev’s Independence Square, where a sprawling protest tent camp was set up in December. Sitting in a wheelchair because of a back problem aggravated during imprisonment, her voice cracked and her face was careworn.

But her words were vivid, praising the protesters who were killed this week in clashes with police that included sniper fire and entreating the living to keep the camp going.

“You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine!” she said of the victims. The Health Ministry on Saturday said the death toll in clashes between protesters and police that included sniper attacks had reached 82.

And she urged the demonstrators not to yield their encampment in the square, known in Ukrainian as the Maidan.

“In no case do you have the right to leave the Maidan until you have concluded everything that you planned to do,” she said.

The crowd was thrilled.

“We missed Yulia and her fire so much,” said demonstrator Yuliya Sulchanik. Minutes after her release, Tymoshenko said she plans to run for president, and Sulchanik said “Yulia will be the next president — she deserves it.”

Under the agreement signed Friday, Yanukovych faces early elections, but it is unclear when they will happen.

His authority in Kiev appeared to be eroding by the hour.

Yanukovych spoke on television in Kharkiv, the heartland of his base of support and ironically the same city where Tymoshenko was imprisoned. He truculently likened his opponents to the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and accused them of a putsch.

“Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and banditry and a coup d’etat,” he said. “I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed.”

Ukraine is deeply divided between eastern regions that are largely pro-Russian and western areas that widely detest Yanukovych and long for closer ties with the European Union. Yanukovych’s shelving of an agreement with the EU in November set off the wave of protests, but they quickly expanded their grievances to corruption, human rights abuses and calls for Yanukovych’s resignation.

The conviction of Tymoshenko was one of the underlying issues driving

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