Ukraine’s embattled president reportedly left the capital for his support base in Ukraine's Russia-leaning east, just hours after he made huge concessions aimed at ending deadly violence that has been shaking the country for weeks.
Late on Friday, a senior State Department official said President Viktor Yanukovych was in Kharkiv for a meeting.
"It is not unusual after he makes large political moves to visit where his base is," the official said.
Although he had been due to visit Kharkiv, Yanukovych's exact whereabouts were not known. His residence outside the capital was empty and unguarded and journalists were entering freely, according to local reports.
On Friday, Yanukovych signed a deal with Ukraine's main opposition leaders brokered to end the deadly violence that put the country on the brink of civil war.
He agreed to early elections and to surrender some of his powers after 77 people were killed as a geopolitical tug-of-war over whether Ukraine should embrace the West or Russia turned violent this week.
Meanwhile, reports swirled that protesters had claimed control of parts of the city.
Christopher Miller, a GlobalPost journalist and an editor at the Kyiv Post, reported that there were no troops in sight.
First published February 22 2014, 12:13 AM
F. Brinley Bruton
F. Brinley Bruton is an editor and senior writer at NBCNews.com in London. Bruton reports, writes, edits and acts as the main point-person in London, commissioning and editing work by NBC News colleagues around the world. She started this role in May of 2007.
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At NBCNews.com and previously msnbc.com, she documented the economic crisisâ€™s deep impact on Spanish society. Bruton has also covered Turkeyâ€™s powerful Islamist government, and the struggle by young Muslim women to be accepted in mainstream society. She has also broken news on the booming North American methamphetamine trade.
Bruton joined NBCNews.com after working as a journalism trainer and mentor at Afghanistanâ€™s Pajhwok Afghan News. While in Afghanistan, she traveled to Farah Province â€“ off-limits to most Westerners â€“ to interview a female activist who became a hero after criticizing U.S.-backed militia leaders for the U.K.'s New Statesman magazine.
Bruton was also a reporter with Reuters in London and New York from 2000 to 2004. In New York, she broke stories about subprime and predatory lending at leading lenders like Citigroup and Countrywide. In London, she wrote about the rush to cash-in on reconstruction contracts after the invasion of Iraq.
Prior to her work at Reuters, Bruton worked at the Mexico City News where she covered, among other things, unionization efforts by the cityâ€™s sex workers.
Bruton lives in London, U.K.