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Ukraine sets sights on EU in wake of Yanukovich ouster

© AFP

Video by William HILDERBRANDT

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-24

Ukraine’s interim leadership has pledged to put the country back on course toward European integration now that its pro-Russian president has been ousted, with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton due in Ukraine Monday.

Ashton's visit is expected to focus on measures to rescue the country’s debt-ridden economy.

Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said late on Sunday that Ukraine’s new leaders wanted relations with Russia to move forward on a “new, equal and good-neighbourly footing that recognises and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice”.

A day after Yanukovich fled the capital, parliament named its new speaker, Turchinov, as interim head of state. Turchinov aims to swear in a government by Tuesday that can provide authority until a new presidential election on May 25.

With pro-EU protesters in control of central Kiev and the country’s parliament, lawmakers rushed through decisions to cement their power and bring to account those who ordered police to fire on Independence Square, where 82 people died in clashes last week.

But whoever takes charge as interim prime minister faces a huge challenge to satisfy high popular expectations and will find an economy in deep crisis.

Western aid offers

EU officials have already offered financial aid to the new government and to revive the trade deal that Yanukovich spurned under Russian pressure in November, sparking the protests that drove him from office.

The United States has also promised help. US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew encouraged Ukraine at the weekend to begin discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on an assistance package as soon as possible once a transitional government is in place in Kiev.

Lew spoke with Arseny Yatsenyuk, a member of Ukraine’s interim leadership, while returning to Washington from the G20 meeting in Sydney, where there was broad support for an IMF-based package, according to a Treasury official.

Britain’s finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, said the UK should also be willing to help Ukraine resolve its financial troubles, just as soon as the country establishes an interim leadership.

“We are here, ready to help, just as soon as there is someone at the end of the telephone,” Osborne said, speaking at the G20 talks.

“We should be there with a chequebook to help the people of Ukraine rebuild their country,” he said.

Russia, for its part, said the next tranche of a $15 billion loan package agreed with Kiev in December would not be paid, at least not before a new government is formed.

Russia on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kiev.

Putin spoke the same day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, agreeing that Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” must be maintained, a Merkel spokesman said in a statement.

The US national security adviser, Susan Rice, was asked on US television Sunday about the possibility of Russia sending troops to Ukraine.

“That would be a grave mistake,” Rice said. “It’s not in the interests of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or the United States to see a country split. It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague appeared to concur. “It would really not be in the interests of Russia to do any such thing,” he told the BBC.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

 

Date created : 2014-02-24

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