UK & World News

  • 23 February 2014, 19:41

Ukraine Takes First Steps Towards New Regime

The Ukraine Parliament has set itself a deadline of Tuesday to form a new national unity government as it attempts to resolve its political crisis.

MPs took a series of votes on Sunday after agreeing to oust President Viktor Yanukovych and bring in elections on May 25.

Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Turchyno gave deputies the deadline and MPs voted to temporarily hand the duties of the president to Mr Turchyno.

Mr Yanukovych's private estate on the outskirts of Kiev was also handed to the state, and one of his key allies - foreign minister Leonid Kozhara - was dismissed after another vote.

As the country moves towards a new government, German Chancellor Angela Merkelspoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in the country.

They "both agreed that Ukraine must quickly get a government capable of acting and its territorial integrity must be preserved", a German government spokesman said.

YuliaTymoshenko, who urged thousands of protesters to continue their struggle after appearing in Kiev on Saturday, ruled herself out of contention for the role of Prime Minister following her release from prison.

She said: "Information that I was being considered for the post of prime minister of Ukraine came as a surprise.

"This issue was not agreed or discussed with me. Thank you for your respect, but I ask you not to consider my candidacy for the post of head of the government."

On Saturday she pledged to stand for President.

It comes as mystery still surrounds the whereabouts of Mr Yanukovych after he was refused permission to fly out of Ukraine on Saturday.

A charter plane thought to have the politician onboard was denied permission to take off from Donetsk, in the east of the country, according to the State Border Service.

A spokesman for Mr Yanukovych said on Sunday that even he did not known where the under fire president is.

CCTV has emerged apparently showing items being removed from the presidential compound on Friday and a figure getting on to a helicopter before flying away.

The compound was found to be empty and unguarded on Saturday, with protesters allowed to roam the grounds and look inside buildings.

Residents in Donetsk said security had been reinforced along the main road to Mr Yanukovych's private home in the town, suggesting he might be there.

Mr Yanukovych refused to resign on local TV on Saturday and claimed decisions made by parliament were illegitimate and part of a "coup".

Aide Hanna Herman said the President was not planning to leave the country and will continue to fulfill his duties.

She added Mr Yanukovych was in Kharkiv as of Saturday night.

A leading governor and a mayor from the eastern city of Kharkiv - both supporters of the president - have also fled to Russia.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Russia on Sunday it was "not in its interest" to intervene in Ukraine. He said there was a "moment of opportunity" in the country after "horrific bloodshed".

"We have to keep up the communication with Russia as we are doing ... so that the people of Ukraine can choose their own way forward."

US national security adviser Susan Rice echoed the words of Mr Hague, warning Moscow such a move would be a "grave mistake". In the interview on NBC's Meet the Press she added it was in no one's interest to see the country split.

Ukraine is divided between eastern regions that are largely pro-Russian and western areas that hate MrYanukovych and want closer ties with the European Union.

Tensions are high in Crimea, where pro-Russian politicians are organising rallies and demanding autonomy from Kiev. Russia has a huge naval base in the region.

Unrest began in November last year after Mr Yanukovych rejected an EU deal to form closer ties with Russia.

The clashes between protesters and riot police have killed 82 people - the worst violence since the country gained independence in 1991.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

Advertisement