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Ukrainian opposition leader Tymoshenko freed, enemy ousted

Then Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a session of the Higher Administrative Court in central Kiev in this February 1
Then Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a session of the Higher Administrative Court in central Kiev in this February 1

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was freed on Saturday during the dramatic ouster of her arch enemy Viktor Yanukovich, setting up a possible run for the presidency in May.

Sporting her distinctive blonde braid, the 53-year-old former prime minister was driven out of the hospital in the northeastern city of Kharkiv where she had spent much of her confinement since 2011.

She waved to supporters, who chanted "Yulia, Yulia!"

"Our homeland will from today on be able to see the sun and sky as a dictatorship has ended," she told reporters.

Tymoshenko's Fatherland party said she would go to Kiev's Independence Square, scene of nearly three months of protests against Yanukovich after he spurned a deal on closer ties with the European Union in favor of former Soviet master Moscow.

Seventy-seven people were killed in two days of carnage on and around the square this week.

The EU brokered a peace deal on Friday, calling for an election by year-end, but protesters made clear they wanted Yanukovich out immediately.

In a day of high drama, parliament voted to remove Yanukovich from office and set an election for May 25, after the president fled the capital and abandoned his offices and residence to protesters.

Regretting the deaths of anti-Yanukovich protesters in gun battles and clashes with police, Tymoshenko said everything must be done so that "each drop of blood was not spilled in vain."

Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 for abuse of office over a gas deal with Russia but her supporters and Western leaders regarded her as a political prisoner.

A fiery orator, Tymoshenko shot to fame during the 2004-5 Orange Revolution that overturned a rigged election won by Yanukovich. She became prime minister, but was forced out after Yanukovich beat her to the presidency in 2010.

(Reporting by Timothy Heritage and Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Matt Robinson)

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