White House keeping close eye on Ukraine

The White House is closely monitoring developments in Ukraine after the country's parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office on Saturday.

“Going forward, the Ukrainian people should know that the United States deeply values our long-standing ties with Ukraine and will support them as they pursue a path of democracy and economic development,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Carney also welcomed the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from a prison hospital.

The announcement comes hours after Yanukovych fled the capital city of Kiev as protesters seized the president's office.

The embattled leader called the political protests a "coup" and vowed to remain in power. 

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"What we see today is a coup — I did everything to prevent the bloodshed," he said in a televised statement, according to USA TODAY. "We adopted two amnesty laws. We did everything to stabilize the political situation. But it happened the way it happened."

"I'm doing everything to prevent bloodshed now of the people who are close to me," he added.

In Saturday's vote, parliament also moved new elections to May 25 rather than December, which was originally brokered in a peace deal Friday.

Ukraine has been thrown in turmoil in recent weeks as protests have gripped the country, leading to a bloody crackdown that has left scores dead and condemnation of Yanukovych’s government from the United States and other countries.

On Friday, President Obama had a more than an hour-long conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the crisis in Ukraine. In recent days, Obama has downplayed suggestions that the dispute in Ukraine is a proxy conflict between Washington and Moscow. 

This story was updated at 6:35 p.m.