MOSCOW, February 22 (RAPSI) – In the aftermath of deadly protests that swept the nation’s capital in recent days, the Ukrainian parliament voted to impeach President Viktor Yanukovych and called for elections to be held on May 25, RIA Novosti reported Saturday.

Meanwhile, Yanukovych has relocated to the east of the country. In a statement, he referred to efforts to oust him as a coup.

The mass protests  initially got underway in Ukraine in November, but exploded this week with renewed vigor as thousands of people marched on the parliament building, where a standoff was taking place over proposed constitutional reforms that the opposition said could provide a way out of the political crisis that is paralyzing the country. The violence that ensued resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Fighting between radical anti-government protesters and police has claimed 77 lives, according to the Ukrainian Health Ministry.

On Friday, Yanukovich announced that presidential elections would be held early and called for the creation of a national trust government in the Ukraine.

Official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Aleksandr Lukashevich on Thursday referred to the situation in Kiev as an attempt to overthrow the government and seize power. "There is no doubt, after today's events especially, when the militants used firearms - that we're dealing with an unmitigated coup here, and use of force to overthrow the government. We denounce the actions of radical element, which harbors the responsibility for the violence and disorder," Lukashevich said.

The same day, the US State Department reported that visa sanctions were imposed against 20 civilian Ukrainian officials deemed responsible for the escalation of violence.