With ousted President on the run, Ukraine delays forming new government
POSTED: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 10:15am
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 4:16pm
KIEV, Ukraine (CNN) — Instability in Ukraine following the ouster of its President is expected to continue at least until Thursday, when an interim unity government is to be appointed.
Acting President Oleksandr Turchinov told parliament Tuesday that the appointment of a temporary administration had been postponed.
At the same session, parliament voted to ask the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to investigate the "illegal actions of the main members of the government" -- including former President Viktor Yanukovych -- dating back to November 13.
But the ICC public affairs unit said in an e-mail that it had received no communication regarding Ukraine and that the ICC has no jurisdiction over that country since it is not a state party to the Rome Statute, the court's founding treaty.
In addition, it said, a state cannot ask the ICC to investigate specific individuals.
In the parliamentary session Tuesday, lawmakers also voted to hold mayoral and city council elections on May 25, along with presidential elections.
One candidate has already been announced. Opposition leader and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko will run for the presidency, his press secretary Oksana Zinovyeva told CNN.
A dramatic sequence of political upheaval has unfolded in Ukraine in recent days after months of anti-government protests.
Last week, bloody street clashes between demonstrators and security forces left more than 80 dead, the deadliest violence in the country since it gained independence 22 years ago.
Amid the unrest, the United States has sent a team of Marines to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev to beef up security, an American official said. The request was made by the State Department and approved by the Pentagon.
Last week, parliament ousted Yanukovych, the focus of protesters' anger, and authorities issued a warrant for his arrest over civilian deaths. But his whereabouts were unknown. Lawmakers appointed Turchinov to serve as acting President and fired several of Yanukovych's ministers.
On Monday, parliament named a new chief prosecutor, security service chief and central bank head.
Those now in power in the capital face a raft of challenges: the division between the country's east and west; protesters eager for bigger changes in government; an economy riddled with corruption; and how to handle the intentions of Russia, a vital supplier of natural gas and a key backer of Yanukovych.
The head of Ukraine's electoral commission, Konstantin Khivrenko, said the campaign to elect a new president would begin Tuesday, three months before the May 25 election date set by authorities.
Russia's Foreign Ministry criticized those elections Monday, saying Ukraine's parliament was acting rashly, and accused lawmakers of discriminating against ethnic Russians, most of whom live in the eastern part of the country -- near the border with Russia -- by excluding them from the reform process.
"A course has been set for suppressing those who disagree in different regions of Ukraine with methods of dictatorship and terror," the Foreign Ministry said.
U.S. officials have expressed support for the parliament's actions, saying they want the country to remain unified.
Protesters gathered Monday outside parliament, shouting "Shame!" in response to what they see as a lack of transparency on the part of lawmakers.
Yanukovych's decision to scrap a European Union trade deal in favor of one with Russia prompted the protests in November.
The country's new leaders have said Kiev's return to European integration will be a priority. But in doing so, they risk an end to the aid that the Kremlin had bestowed on Yanukovych.
Interim Finance Minister Yury Kolobov proposed Monday that an international donor conference be held within two weeks. Ukraine, he said, will need $35 billion in foreign assistance by the end of 2015.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Tuesday warned the United States and European Union against turning Ukraine against its neighbor.
"The relationship is not always developing in constructive ways. We have confirmed our position of not intervening in Ukraine politics," he said. "We hope all channels will be used to calm the situation in Ukraine."
Lavrov said Russia was working with EU officials in Brussels, Belgium.
"It is not a good position to impose to Ukraine that 'either you are with us or without us.' But we hope it will become our full partner in the near future," he added.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appealed Tuesday "to all our international partners, in particular Russia, to work constructively with us to guarantee a united Ukraine that can be a factor for stability in the European continent; a Ukraine that will have good relations both with its western as with its eastern partners."
'People want to be united'
Yanukovych's base of support is in eastern Ukraine, where Russian culture and language predominate and where many people are suspicious of the Europe-leaning views of their counterparts in western Ukraine, who were at the heart of the protests against Yanukovych that filled central Kiev for months.
Yanukovych insisted in a televised address over the weekend that he was still the legitimate President. But many senior Ukrainian officials appeared to be turning their backs on their former leader.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Yuriy Sergeyev told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday that Yanukovych and his government had "betrayed" the Ukrainian people.
But Sergeyev said the country is not as divided as some observers suggest.
"They don't want any civil war; people want to be united," he said.
The old guard
Yanukovych's ouster was followed by the release over the weekend of one of his most bitter political foes, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. She spent 2½ years in prison, most of it in a detention hospital.
She met Tuesday with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Kiev.
On Monday, Ashton spoke with Ukraine's three main opposition party leaders: Klitschko of the UDAR party; Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Tymoshenko's Batkivschina, or Fatherland, party; and Oleg Tyahnybok, of the nationalist right-wing party Svoboda, or Freedom.
Tymoshenko, a longtime opposition leader and ally of Turchinov, has hinted she may be interested in running for the presidency.
But some observers aren't convinced that's what most Ukrainians want.
Tymoshenko, 53, is considered a hero of the 2004 "Orange Revolution," which successfully challenged the results of an election won by Yanukovych.
But she is less well regarded for her performance as Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, when she was ousted after losing to Yanukovych in elections.
"She was a very corrupt leader," said Julia Ioffe, senior editor at The New Republic. "She was part of the reason the 'Orange Revolution' failed."
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of abuse of authority over a natural gas deal negotiated with Russia. Western governments said the case against her was politically motivated.
Amid the changes now under way, those involved in the recent street protests have expressed a desire for a new, untainted generation of leaders to step forward.
"A lot of people who made this revolution feel like this movement has created a lot of new leaders, a lot of young leaders -- that now it's their turn," Ioffe told "CNN Newsroom" over the weekend.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reported from Kiev, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. Tom Watkins, Ralph Ellis, Azad Safarov, Khushbu Shah and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.
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