Ukraine’s interim leadership pledged to put the country back on course for EU integration now that Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich has been ousted and new elections are called for 25 May, the same day as EU citizens will vote in the European elections. Meanwhile the United States warned Russia against sending in military forces. As rival neighbours east and west of the former Soviet republic said a power vacuum in Kyiv must not lead to the country breaking apart, acting President Oleksandr Turchinov said late on Sunday (23 February) that Ukraine’s new leaders wanted relations with Russia on a “new, equal and good-neighbourly footing that recognises and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice”. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to Ukraine today (24 February), where she is expected to discuss measures to shore up the ailing economy. Russia said late on Sunday that it had recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kyiv.
A day after Yanukovich fled to the Russian-speaking eastern part of the country, following dozens of deaths during street protests aimed at toppling him, parliament named its new speaker, Turchinov, as interim head of state (see background).
An ally of the ousted leader’s jailed rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, who was freed from jail on Saturday, he aims to swear in a government that can provide authority until a presidential election on 25 May, the same day EU citizens will vote in European elections.
With battle-hardened, pro-Western protesters in control of central Kyiv and determined to hold their leaders to account, lawmakers rushed through decisions to cement their power, display their rejection of rampant corruption and bring to account officials who ordered police to fire on Independence Square.