Ukraine's Parliament Confirms Government as Crises Loom
KIEV, February 27 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine's parliament on Thursday confirmed an interim government that includes leading figures of a protest movement that spearheaded the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Arseny Yatsenyuk, 39, who was economy minister for a year up until August 2006, was approved as head of a Cabinet that will need to steer Ukraine through a perilous debt crisis and restore stability to the deeply divided country.
Yatsenyuk's nomination as prime minister was supported by 371 deputies in the 450-seat parliament.
His nomination was put forward by a newly formed governing 250-deputy strong coalition, called European Choice, which incorporates Yatsenyuk's Batkivshchyna party.
Deputies approved former central bank head Oleksander Shlapak as finance minister, Andriy Deshchitsya as acting foreign minister and Ihor Tenyukh as acting defense minister.
Other prominent Cabinet appointments include Arsen Avakov as interior minister and Dmitry Bulatov as sports minister. A leading figure in the protest movement, Bulatov was at the peak of the demonstrations kidnapped by unknown individuals and days later found in a forest bearing signs of torture.
The parliament has since the weekend approved a raft of measures aimed at expunging traces of Yanukovych's rule.
In Thursday's session, deputies voted to restore the 2004 constitution in a move that will boost the powers of parliament and water down the authority of the president.
Yatsenyuk had earlier been linked with a possible run for the presidency in elections scheduled for May 25, but he has now said he will not be seeking the office.
"I do not intend to run for the presidency of Ukraine, and I am resigning my parliamentary mandate," he said.
On Saturday, the erstwhile opposition took control over parliament and together with disaffected deputies from the ex-ruling Party of Regions voted to impeach Yanukovych, who is currently on the run. An anonymous Russian government source said Thursday that Yanukovych was on Russian territory, but provided no details.
Russia has criticized the swift ascension to power by members of the opposition, saying they reneged on a compromise deal reached Friday to form an interim government and pursue constitutional reforms by the end of the year.
Ukraine's economy is in dismal repair and faces difficult choices as it tackles with a punishing balance-of-payments crisis. The government has, however, received tentative offers of financial support from the United States and the European Union, which will prove essential to mitigate Russia's expected intention to back away from issuing the $15 billion in loans that were announced late last year.
The incoming government also needs to cope with an uncertain security situation in the southern Crimean Peninsula, where the ethnic Russian community has become alarmed by increasingly belligerent nationalist rhetoric among leading politicians in Ukraine.
Complicating matters, representatives of the ethnic Tatar community, which comprises more than one-tenth of Crimea's population, have come out in support of the incoming regime, setting the stage for tensions inside the peninsula.
On Thursday morning, an unidentified group of armed people seized the local legislature in the Crimean town of Simferopol and hoisted the Russian tricolor up a flagpole.
Fighting broke out Wednesday in Simferopol as large crowds of opponents of the newly installed national authorities faced off against representatives of the Tatar community outside the local parliament. Many among the ethnic Russian crowd waved flags of Russia and chanted the country's name in an apparent appeal for assistance on their behalf.
At least two people died and another 30 people sought medical help as a result of the clashes, the local health ministry said Thursday.
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