First and foremost, thanks to mass defections from Yanukovych’s Regions Party, the opposition won the majority in parliament that had previously eluded it: On Thursday night, 236 out of 450 deputies voted for a resolution calling on all armed forces to stop shooting on protesters and to return to their barracks. Before the protests started, the three democratic opposition parties had only 168 votes, but now they have gained 68 more votes from independents and defectors from Yanukovych. This shift of power in parliament has made all the other changes possible.
The defectors are largely big businessmen and their representatives in parliament. Many of Yanukovych’s more odious loyalist lawmakers fled the country, and the protesters blocked the Kiev airport Thursday evening to make sure that they could no longer flee. Yanukovych’s power base is finally disintegrating.
The immediate cause of these mass defections was the great tragedy of the previous three days. The special Interior Ministry police, known as the Berkut, killed dozens of protesters on Maidan, the main public square in Kiev. The violence was so counterproductive that one wonders whether President Yanukovych had lost his mind, control, or both. Whatever the case, he has lost the trust necessary to stay in power. A few days earlier former President Leonid Kuchma stated that in his worst nightmares he could not have anticipated such bloodshed in Ukraine, and it was unacceptable for it to continue. He was criticizing Yanukovych in all but name.