23 Feb 2014

Ukraine revolution: interim president appointed

Ukraine’s MPs vote for the parliament speaker to become interim president and are given until Tuesday to form a new unity government.

Ukraine’s parliament voted on Sunday to hand over the duties of president to the new speaker of the assembly, Oleksander Turchinov, as a temporary measure.

He called on lawmakers to form an interim government by Tuesday. MPs had already voted to hold new presidential elections on 25 May, after ousting President Yanukovych. The beleaguered ex-president called the revolution a “coup” and fled Kiev, saying he would not resign. His whereabouts are unknown.

Also on Sunday, Ukrainian MPs voted to dismiss Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, and other allies of the former president and to have Ukrainian as the only official language of the country – not Russian.

MPs also freed 64 protesters from jail, nationalised the ex-president’s luxurious compound, complete with golf course and private zoo, and the attorney-general announced that all deaths which took place during the protests would be investigated. New figures suggest 88 people have died since 18 February.

Thousands of people remain at Independence Square where they are listening to speeches and singing.

But fears remain about divisions in Ukraine, between a Europe-leaning west and a Russian-leaning east and south.

Pro-Russian demonstrators clashed with anti-government protesters in the town of Kerch in eastern Ukraine, where many people are native Russian-speakers and have strong cultural ties to Moscow. International Editor Lindsey Hilsum is in Donetsk in the east, where native Russian speakers do not support the uprising. She tweeted: “People in Donetsk say they don’t support #Yanukovich, but see Maidan supporters as fascists.”

Hague warning to Russia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken to both Vladimir Putin and to Ukraine’s former opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was released from jail and made an emotional speech to protesters on Saturday. Ms Merkel’s office said she and Mr Putin were agreed that Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” must be safeguarded.

“They underscored their joint interest in a stable Ukraine – both in economic and political terms,” said Ms Merkel’s spokesman.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned Russia not to intervene in the Ukraine crisis, as he called for the urgent formation of a national unity government to help manage divisions in the country.

He said that talks were continuing with Moscow and stressed that it would not be in the interests of the Russian people to intervene, amid concerns that president Vladimir Putin could send in troops.

The release from prison of Ukraine’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was welcomed by European Union Foreign Policy Chief Baroness Ashton, who called on all sides to continue to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Addressing the crowd in Kiev’s Independence Square, Ms Tymoshenko paid tribute to the protesters who had lost their lives in the unrest, saying “heroes don’t die, they are always with us and they always will be our inspiration”.

Speaking from a wheelchair amid at Kiev’s “Maidan”, Independence Square, which has become the focal point for the opposition movement, Ms Tymoshenko said the protests should continue.

“Until you finish this job and until we travel all the way, nobody has the right to leave,” she said.

Europe Editor Matt Frei has been reporting from Kiev – from violent protests, to Saturday’s revolution. Watch his reports below