Friday, July 25, 2014
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Ukraine Power Play

At Kiev´s Independence Square , the epicenter of Ukraine´s antigovernment protests, people place flowers at a memorial for demonstrators who were killed during the recent clashes with police. BRENDAN HOFFMAN / Getty Images
At Kiev's Independence Square , the epicenter of Ukraine's antigovernment protests, people place flowers at a memorial for demonstrators who were killed during the recent clashes with police. BRENDAN HOFFMAN / Getty Images
At Kiev´s Independence Square , the epicenter of Ukraine´s antigovernment protests, people place flowers at a memorial for demonstrators who were killed during the recent clashes with police. BRENDAN HOFFMAN / Getty Images Gallery: Ukraine Power Play
KIEV, Ukraine - The Ukrainian parliament, now dominated by foes of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, took bold measures Sunday to remake the government, sacking ministers, freeing jailed protesters, and announcing investigations and detentions of former officials.

By decree, parliament gave interim presidential authority to speaker Oleksandr Turchynov, a leader of the opposition.

But even as demonstrators in Kiev celebrated their victory over the pro-Russian Yanukovych, there were signs of trouble in parts of the Ukraine that still lean more toward Russia than Europe. In the Crimea to the south, men gathered to volunteer for militias to oppose the decrees announced in Kiev.

In the capital, the parliamentarian and former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko urged the thousands of demonstrators in Independence Square to remain there in order to protect the advances won by the opposition. Klitschko also said the "self-defense" militias organized to defend the barricades at the square against riot police should remain on the streets to provide security. "There are no police on the streets right now," Klitschko told reporters. "The police will be reorganized, and we will try to do this as fast as possible."

Another member of parliament warned his colleagues that they needed to move quickly to bring security forces back to work, saying that some of the nation's vital infrastructure, including nuclear power plants, were unguarded.

Maintaining security wasn't the only issue. Turchynov, the new interim president, said Ukraine's pension fund, national currency, and banking system were facing "immense problems," according to the news group RIA Novosti.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Moscow would delay a planned purchase of $2 billion in Ukrainian eurobonds until Kiev formed a new government. In December, Russia had signed a deal with Yanukovych promising a $15 billion support package. The move toward Russian aid, and away from a trade agreement with the European Union, was one of the sparks that began three months of protest in Kiev.

Independence Square was filled with thousands of Ukrainians on Sunday who piled heaps of flowers at makeshift shrines beside photographs of some of the 82 protesters who have been killed by riot police in the recent clashes. In western Ukraine, large crowds assembled to mourn the protesters.

Members of the opposition, which now controls Kiev and the central government, also announced that protesters arrested during demonstrations would be freed immediately, while they also sought to detain and prosecute the dismissed prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka. The interim interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said the new government would open an inquiry into lethal force used by riot police and security forces during the protests.

The whereabouts of Yanukovych remain unknown.

On Saturday, parliament voted to dismiss Yanukovych from office and to free jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who went directly from a prison hospital bed to a stage at Independence Square to address an audience of tens of thousands.

Tymoshenko, the blond-braided and controversial heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, increasingly appears to have the upper hand in the political battle, winning the backing Sunday of a leading Russian lawmaker and congratulations from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. senators on her release.

But her spokeswoman, Maria Soroka, said it was too early to discuss whether she would run for president in early elections called for May 25.

On Sunday, U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice warned that Russian troop intervention in Ukraine would be a "grave mistake."

"This is not about the U.S. and Russia," Rice said on NBC's Meet the Press. "This is about whether the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic and be part of Europe, which they choose to be."


This article contains information from the Associated Press.

William Booth Washington Post
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