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Tymoshenko confidante becomes acting Ukrainian president

Newly elected speaker of parliament Oleksander Turchynov attends a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Al
Newly elected speaker of parliament Oleksander Turchynov attends a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Al

KIEV (Reuters) - The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, the closest confidante of freed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, was temporarily handed the role of president on Sunday following the ouster of Viktor Yanukovich.

Yanukovich abandoned the capital on Saturday, heading to his native east where he denounced what he called a "coup d'état".

Parliament on Sunday voted to give Oleksander Turchinov, elected speaker on Saturday, Yanukovich's duties as president.

A presidential election has been set for May 25.

Turchinov, 49, hails from the same city as Tymoshenko, Dnipropetrovsk in southeastern Ukraine, and is deputy leader of her Fatherland party.

He served as head of Ukraine's state security service (SBU) following the 2004-05 Orange Revolution that was co-led by Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko was freed by her jailors on Saturday on a day of high drama and intrigue that upturned the political order in the former Soviet republic.

The 53-year-old former gas magnate was jailed in 2011 for seven years over a gas deal she signed with Russia as prime minister.

Her release sets up a possible run for the presidency.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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