On 22 February 2014, the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukranian Parliament) passed the following resolution:
RESOLUTION OF THE VERKHOVNA RADA OF
“On self-withdrawal of the President of
In view of the fact that the President of Ukraine has withdrawn from
performing constitutional authorities, which threatens governance of the state,
territorial integrity and sovereignty of
1. To determine that the President of Ukraine V. Yanukovych has in the non-constitutional manner withdrawn from performing constitutional powers and is the one that does not perform his duties.
2. Under clause 7 of part one of article 85 of the Constitution of Ukraine, set early elections of the President of Ukraine for May 25, 2014.
3. This Resolution comes into force on the day of its adoption.
Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of
This English text of the resolution is taken from the Rada website .
The passing of this resolution by the Rada is the sole basis for the claim by the British Government (and others)
(a) that President Yanukovych was removed from office in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution and
the legitimacy of the present regime in
Foreign Minister, William Hague, made this claim in the House of Commons on 4 March 2014, saying:
“Former President Yanukovych left his post and then left the country, and the decisions on replacing him with an acting President were made by the Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, by the very large majorities required under the constitution, including with the support of members of former President Yanukovych's party, the Party of Regions, so it is wrong to question the legitimacy of the new authorities.” 
He and other British ministers have made similar remarks since, though with less and less emphasis on the constitutionality of the Rada’s actions. This is understandable, since, as I detail below, it is as plain as a pikestaff that the Rada acted unconstitutionally in
(a) removing President Yanukovych from power, and
(b) appointing Olexander Turchynov as Acting President
Nevertheless, the new regime has been wholeheartedly
Furthermore, since his appointment, Olexander Turchynov has regularly
acted unconstitutionally by exceeding the powers of an Acting President as laid
down in the Ukranian constitution. An
Acting President has much less power than an elected President, for example,
he/she doesn’t have the power to appoint Ministers or regional governors. This is
a reasonable constitutional provision, designed to prevent an unelected substitute
for an elected president taking radical measures without a popular mandate, but
allows him/her sufficient powers to keep government functioning until a new president
is elected. However, Turchynov has
ignored these limitations and behaved as if he were an elected president, yet
he retains the unstinting support of
The Rada may impeach a president
The Ukranian constitution does allow the Rada to remove an elected President from power before the end of his term of office. Article 111 of the constitution states:
“The President of Ukraine may be
removed from office by the Verkhovna Rada of
Article 111 goes on to specify the procedure which must be
followed. This is not unlike the
procedure required for the impeachment and removal from power of a
The Rada may also remove an elected President from power under Article 110, if he is deemed unfit to exercise power due to ill health – and he/she may die or resign. President Yanukovych didn’t die or resign, nor was he unable to exercise his powers due to ill health, so the only constitutional means of removing him from power before the end of his term was by following the impeachment procedure enshrined in Article 111.
Article 111 obliges the Rada to establish a special investigatory commission to formulate charges against the president, seek evidence to justify the charges and come to conclusions about the president’s guilt for the Rada to consider. To find the president guilty, at least two-thirds of Rada members must assent.
Prior to a final vote to remove the president from power, the procedure requires
To remove the president from power, at least three-quarters of Rada members must assent.
The Rada didn’t make any pretence of following the impeachment procedure enshrined in Article 111. No investigatory commission was established and the Courts were not involved.
The Rada simply passed the resolution given above on 22 February, which gives the impression that the President voluntarily walked off the job (which isn’t true). The resolution doesn’t mention impeachment or Article 111 of the constitution, but does invoke Article 85 of the constitution in order to set an early date for a presidential election.
Furthermore, the resolution which purported to remove the president wasn’t supported by three-quarters of Rada members as required by Article 111 – it was supported by 328 members, when it required 338 (since the Rada has 450 members).
Appointment of acting president unconstitutional
The constitution was also breached when it came to the appointment of Olexander Turchynov as Acting President on 23 February. Article 112 specifies that
“the execution of duties of the President of Ukraine, for the period pending the elections and the assumption of office of the new President of Ukraine, is vested in the Prime Minister of Ukraine”.
On 22 February,
Acting president acting unconstitutionally
Under Article 112 of the constitution, the powers of an Acting President appointed by the Rada are much less than an elected President. Article 112 says:
“The Prime Minister of Ukraine, for the period of executing the duties of the President of Ukraine, shall not exercise the powers envisaged by subparagraphs 2, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 22, 25 and 27 of Article 106 of the Constitution of Ukraine.”
Powers not available to an Acting President include:
Nevertheless, Acting President, Olexander Turchynov, has appointed cabinet ministers and replaced nearly all the regional governors  and the chief prosecutor . He had no authority under the constitution to do any of this.
(On 4 March 2014 in the House of Commons, William Hague
commended the Acting President for appointing “new regional governors in
Russian-speaking regions”. He gave this
as an example of the new regime “tak[ing] measures that unify the country and
protect the rights of all
According to Article 94 of the constitution, laws passed by the Rada require the signature of the President to come into force, so no law passed by the Rada since 22 February has been enacted in accordance with the constitution.
Not a government of national unity
On 21 February, the day before President Yanukovych was unconstitutionally deposed by the Rada, the EU brokered an agreement  that provided for the transfer within 48 hours of substantial presidential powers to the Ukranian parliament and the creation within 10 days of a “national unity government”, which would remain in place until presidential elections were held.
(For details, see my article EU disavowal of 21 February agreement responsible for standoff between the West & Russia )
The agreement was brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland (Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Radoslaw Sikorski) acting on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (who was in Iran). A Russian representative, Vladimir Lukin, was also present during the negotiations.
The agreement was signed by the leaders of the three main
opposition parties, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (Fatherland) Vitali Klitschko (UDAR) and
Oleh Tyahnybok (Freedom) and by President Yanukovych himself. It was welcomed by the EU and the
But the opposition leaders reneged on the deal and, the next day, took part in the unconstitutional overthrow of Yanukovych, replacing him with an opposition figure, and established a “government” representative of the opposition and not a “national unity government” as provided for in the agreement.
EU blessed illegitimate regime
The EU stood idly by while this happened and blessed the
illegitimate regime that came into being as a result, as did the
It was the EU’s disavowal of its 21 February agreement and
the wholehearted endorsement by the
This endorsement took place despite the fact that the new “government”
contains five ministers, including the
deputy prime minister, from the Svoboda (Freedom) party, led by Oleh
Tyahnybok, which was described by the
European Parliament in 2012 as holding “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic
views” that “go against the EU's fundamental values and principles” . It
seems to believe that
Nor has US/EU support for the new
regime been inhibited by the fact that the head of
In an interview with Die Welt on 18 March , Parubiy boasted:
“The Russians miscalculated. They did not realise that we would suddenly be able to hound Yanukovych out of office in a matter of days.”
That comes from the horse’s mouth
and gives the lie to the assertion in the resolution passed by the Rada on 22
February that Yanukovych had been guilty of “self-withdrawal … from performing his
constitutional duties”, that is, he had voluntarily ceased carrying out his
duties as president. According to the head of
18 April 2014