UK & World News

  • 23 February 2014, 23:54

Ukraine: Russia Warned Over 'Grave Mistake'

Russia has been warned it would be committing a "grave mistake" if it sends troops into Ukraine.

As the country moves towards a new government, US national security adviser Susan Rice said it was in no one's interest to see it split.

It has also emerged that Russia has recalled its ambassador in Ukraine to Moscow for consultations, a day after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovychwas ousted.

Mr Yanukovych was deposed by Parliament on Saturday after months of bloody unrest over his decision to spurn a trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Mystery surrounds his whereabouts after he was refused permission to fly out of Ukraine on Saturday. He has said he will not resign.

CCTV has also emerged apparently showing items being removed from the presidential compound on Friday and a figure boarding a helicopter before it flew away.

Financial documents found in the abandoned compound detailed Mr Yanukovych's lavish spending, often on unusual items.

Among the documents was a receipt for $12m (7.2m) in cash, and $110,000 (66,000) spent on curtains in a room called the "Knight's Hall".

Some 1.5m (900,000) was spent on plants, $115,000 (69,000) for a statue of a "running boar", and there was a receipt for a $4,000 (2,400) "bribe".

Mr Yanukovych's arch-rival, jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has been freed from prison and is positioning herself to run for the presidency.

But Ms Tymoshenko polarises opinion in a nation divided between a largely pro-Russia east and western areas that hate Mr Yanukovych and want closer ties with Europe.

In the interview with NBC's Meet the Press, Ms Rice said President Barack Obama had spoken by phone with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The two agreed a political settlement should ensure the unity of Ukraine and the right of Ukrainians to express their free will.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also warned Russia it was "not in its interest" to intervene.

He said it was "very important for us to continue to try to persuade Russia that this need not be a zero-sum game".

In a sign of the tensions the crisis is causing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry the opposition had "de-facto seized power, is refusing to lay down weapons and continues to rely on violence".

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to the country on Monday to discuss economic help.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchyno said Ukraine was willing to talk to Moscow to try and improve relations, but stressed European integration would remain Kiev's priority.

Mr Turchyno was handed the duties of president on Sunday by Parliament, which has also set early elections for May 25.

A deadline of Tuesday has been set for the formation of a new government.

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

In Kiev's Independence Square, the focal point of the protests, thousands paid their respects to the victims. The square remains packed with demonstrators.

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