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President Putin recently called the change in government in Ukraine an "anti-constitutional coup and a military seizure of power". Obviously, the interim government and their Western allies disagree, however I couldn't find a clear answer on whether the process followed to oust former President Yanukovych was actually in line with the Ukrainian constitution.

Was it?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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As @julianschuessler said, Yanukovich was removed unconstitutionally. Note, however, that Russia is yet to break the law by being in the Ukraine. According to a 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine, Russia is allowed to have upto 25,000 troops on (Ukranian/Crimean) soil, in exchange for various goodies. Reports say that only 16,000 troops are in the Ukraine –  Luke Madhanga Mar 5 at 17:40
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Was the American revolution legal? The Arab spring uprisings? What is the difference between these examples and (for example) Hitler's... creative election? Could it be that a government's actions after its rise to power legitimize it over the regime it replaces? –  kleineg Mar 5 at 20:18
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It wasn't. It was a putch/overthrow of a democratically elected government. –  user2694 Mar 6 at 0:33
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It seems to be a tactic deployed by EU and US to bring a pro EU government in Ukraine. –  Praveen Kumar Mar 6 at 5:04
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It was not legal by Ukraine laws, but it conforms to UN norms. However it is typical for totalitarian governments because they have tendency to have their laws ajusted toward protection of status-quo. –  setec Mar 6 at 9:18

5 Answers 5

up vote 40 down vote accepted

Jay Ulfelder discussed this topic among others in a nice blogpost I quote for convenience:

The vote to remove Yanukovych doesn’t seem to have followed constitutional procedures. Under Articles 108-112 of Ukraine’s constitution (here), there are four ways a sitting president may leave office between elections: resignation, incapacitation, death, and impeachment. None of the first three happened—early rumors to the contrary, Yanukovych has vehemently denied that he resigned—so that leaves the fourth, impeachment. According to Article 111, impeachment must follow a specific set of procedures: Parliament must vote to impeach and then convene a committee to investigate. That committee must investigate and report back to parliament, which must then vote to bring charges. A final vote to convict may only come after receipt of a judgment from the Constitutional Court that “the acts, of which the President of Ukraine is accused, contain elements of treason or other crime.”

And this final vote would have taken the votes of at least 3/4 of all MPs (338), whereas only 328 MPs simply voted for impeachment in a clearly unconstitutional way.

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Worth noting: the blog does say continue on to suggest that Yanukovych's actions "qualify as an impeachable offense, but impeachment is not what happened". It will be interesting to see if the parliament goes through formal impeachment procedures in absentia to retroactively legitimatize its actions. –  Bobson Mar 5 at 14:20
    
Did they forgo the proceedings in order to establish some form of order in the country? It seems like until they actually hold the impeachment procedure Yanukovych can claim that he has legitimacy and is the real President. –  kleineg Mar 5 at 20:14
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I believe that the argument used in the debates before that actual vote was to treat Yanukovych as incapacitated due to him being unable to govern after fleeing the capital. That being said, there probably wasn't any scenario offered by the current constitution that would be reasonable/realistic at that point, given the actions of both Yanukovych and the parliament; so they just implemented a de facto solution that would have to be reconfirmed or overturned after new elections and likely a change in constitution. –  Peteris Mar 5 at 22:12

Let me share my opinion as Ukrainian citizen, from Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine.

On February 21, 2014 Yanukovych and the opposition signed an agreement on resolving the crisis in Ukraine, one of the conditions was the immediate (within 2 days) rollback to the Constitution of 2004, constitutional reform and early presidential elections no later than December 2014.

The same day, right after signing the agreement, Yanukovych left Kyiv even without driving home.

The next day in the interview Yanukovych said that he would not resign and is not going to sign the decision of the Verkhovna Rada, which it considers illegal, and what is happening in the country qualified as "vandalism and gangsterism".

Form this moment it was clear that he run away, made everybody fool, and was not going to do what he signed on February 21.

Actually, Yanukovych in unconstitutional manner withdrew from the exercise of constitutional authority and did not fulfill his obligations.

On February 23 Acting President Rights were assigned to Oleksandr Turchynov.

It was absolutely unclear where Yanukovych has gone.

The east of the country was under separatists attack. Yanukovich seemed to be somewhere there. Assigning rights to new temporary president was the only correct way to save the country.

So it was absolutely legal.

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The answer must be based on facts, not opinions. –  user4035 Mar 15 at 11:51

I am sure this is more phylosophical and ethical question than it seems.

The status of "legalness" gained always afterwards when a new law order established, or the old order restored. Therefore in a point of view yes, it could be anti-constitutional (to be sure, one with decent ukrainian language knowledge have to check the ukrainian constitution if it allows to remove people from power if they become too powerful).

But from the perspective of the new law order it needs only a declaration to legalize the happenings, and it needs stable enforcement.

To make it clear, I am almost 100% sure in North Korea it is not constitutional if somebody coup Kim Jong Un and his militaristic leadership. But if happens and the coup is succeded that will be considered a legal revolution.

But an another example from history: The Hungarian Revolution in Austrian Empire happened in 1848. It was not legal for any ethnic group to leave the empire and declare freedom. It wasn't legal to use Hungarian as official language etc.
The plot is clear: If Hungary fights and keeps freedom then the country itself gets legalized. If Austria wins the old order restored and independent Hungary with different government stays illegal. However Hungary later received several autonomy laws from Austria, and from 1865 the empire became Austro-Hungarian Empire.

I hope somebody can improve this answer with more knowledge of law.

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No new law was established, and the Ukrainian constitution remains the same. There's nothing philosophical about the question and I have no interest in the ethical aspects of the issue. The question is: Was the process followed to oust Yanukovych legal according to the Ukrainian constitution?, and I think it's a question that can be answered factually. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 5 at 7:16
    
So, in another words : the winners are writing the history. Doesn't matter if they were right or wrong. –  BЈовић Mar 6 at 9:00
    
@BЈовић it is true while the winners reign. Whoever rules, give the law which legalize a revolution or not. The term "legal" is not in correlation with "moral". As Yannis wrote, there are no new laws yet, but if there will be, the entire situation will be revaluated. –  CsBalazsHungary Mar 6 at 9:03

The revolution was totally legal. There isn't a law that disallows you to demonstrate. The government voted against Yanukovych which was correct as the answer from julianschuessler says.

There is going to be an impeachment in front of the UN court because of genocide. It was illegal to shoot the demonstrators. Some of them have been killed precisely by snipers.

New elections will start in May and the reformer president Timochenko is going to be a candidate.

Don't believe Russian newspapers or blogs. They are very often pro-Russia. So another question would be, is it legal that Russian soldiers in Krim walk through the streets? In fact I don't think so! Putin also said: German newspaper "Russian people have to be safe even outside Russia." So this is a really offensive answer! It means every country which has many Russians may be the next target if there is a political crisis. Last time it was Georgia. But that's another story...

So under bottom line I think it was totally legal.

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-1 - Just because there will be an impeachment doesn't mean it's legal to remove him from power until that impeachment is completed. –  Bobson Mar 5 at 17:51
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There is doubt that the snipers were sent by the government - after all, those snipers also shot police officers. And by the way: I don't believe in western newspapers or blogs. They are very often pro western. We should wait until the propaganda smoke screens have vanished and we know some actual facts. –  Jost Mar 5 at 17:53
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Hello and Welcome to Politics.SE. This doesn't really answer the question, I'm not interested in the legality of the revolution or the "bottom line". Please consider updating your answer to comment on the constitutional process followed, and let's keep this only about the facts. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 5 at 23:02
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I don't believe either. Everybody lies, for various reasons - mostly to protect their interests (or gain cheap oil and resources). Do not believe everything cnn or bild (which I look at as garbage RTL newspaper anyway) says. Just to make it clear : I do not believe Russians either. Just use your brain, and filter the garbage. –  BЈовић Mar 6 at 8:43
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@daniel.didusch - You missed my point. As far as the media has reported, the procedure in the link you provided has not been followed. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine was not consulted, and there's reports that there weren't enough votes to meet the 3/4 requirement. A vote was taken, but it didn't follow the procedure that it should have. –  Bobson Mar 6 at 14:35

The Ukrainian state had not enough means to defend the life of the president who had to leave the country fearing for his life and the life of his relatives and following from his escape, a new governement was declared so if you call that legal, people could go to your house , make you leave the house by telling you that you will get shot you and your entire family and burning your garden and once you escape, they claim - legally - posession of your house!

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protected by Yannis Rizos Mar 6 at 6:31

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