Yulia Tymoshenko
Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko made an impassioned address to anti-government protesters gathered in the Independence Square in Kiev.Reuters

In emotional scenes in Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine's opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko addressed thousands of anti-government protesters, paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the recent protests.

Violent clashes between protesters and police have resulted in the deaths of 82 people, in the worst violence since the country gained independence.

The former Ukranian Prime Minister, who was earlier freed from prison, headed straight to Kiev, the nucleus of the three-month protest that is threatening to escalate into civil war.

Looking frail and worn as she arrived in a wheel chair, the 53-year-old made a rousing speech, breaking down as she addressed the 50,000-strong crowd gathered in Independence Square. She told them they had the right to build a "European Ukraine."

"When I came to Kiev the first thing I wanted to do was come to the barricades,' she said. "I wanted to feel the feelings that had all these boys and girls on the barricades had been through. All the people responsible will be brought to justice."

"Heroes don't die," she said. "You are heroes, you are the best of Ukraine," before breaking down in tears.

Referring to the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, she congratulated the protestors for "removing the cancer from Ukraine."

Yulia Tymoshenko
Tymoshenko urged President Viktor Yanukovich's opponents not to abandon their protests in central Kiev even though parliament has voted to oust him.Reuters

"This is your victory, no politicians could do what you have done," she said. "This country is now free, you have given this country its freedom. You have removed this cancer from our country. I am convinced that any bullet shot through the heart of the people went through the heart of each Ukrainian.

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

The square has been the focal point of the protest movement after demonstrators took to the streets over Yanukovych's decision to establish closer ties with Russia rather than Europe. Deputies in the country's assembly voted unanimously to dismiss him.

The ousted President remains defiant however, describing the unfolding events as a coup. He has since gone into hiding and reportedly fled Kiev in the earlier hours of this morning. He is believed to have tried to board a plane to Russia, but his current whereabouts remains unclear.

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych (2nd R)
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the Ukraine but remains defiant, describing the protests as a coup.Reuters

Speaker Oleksander Turchynov said Yanukovych had "abandoned his constitutional responsibilities, which threatens the functioning of the state, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine"

"He tried to take a plane to Russia but he was blocked in doing so by border police. He is currently hiding somewhere in the Donetsk region."

Tymoshenko, was in detention for two-and-half years, suspected of an abuse of power while in office in connection with a gas deal, that it was claimed had made her millions.

While she served her sentence, she feared the authorities were poisoning her cosmetic products and refused invasive medical treatments. However, the Ukranian prison service refuted her claims, suggesting no suspicious substances had ever been found.

The West said her imprisonment was politically motivated, and the European Union repeatedly pressed for her release, only to be rebuffed by Yanukovich. She was released following a resolution by Parliament.

Ukrainian anti government protesters
A 50,000 strong crowd of anti-government protestors welcomed the return of the former Ukranian Prime minister.Reuters

While her release has sent shockwaves through Ukrainian politics, the opposition leader, hailed as Ukraine's Iron Lady, is taking control of Kiev and has pledged to run for president .

On the subject of ties with Europe, Tymoshenko said she is "sure" Ukraine will join the European Union "and this will change everything".

A White House spokesman said they welcomed her release and pledged to work with Russia and allies to support a strong, democratic Ukraine.

A nation with a population of 46 million, the Ukraine has huge strategic importance to Russia, Europe and the United States.

The country has witnessed the worst unrest since the days of the Soviet Union.