(KIEV, Ukraine) — With the situation in Ukraine still far from settled, the country took some steps towards normalcy and European integration Sunday with the appointment of former parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov as the country’s new interim president.
Turchynov’s sudden ascension came 48 hours after a deal was struck to end days of violence in the streets of Kiev that left as many as 100 people dead in an effort to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from power.
Initially, Yanukovych, whose close alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin precipitated the civil unrest, was supposed to remain in office until December. But with the opposition threatening to reject the deal, parliament moved ahead Saturday and stripped Yanukovych of his powers.
Yanukovych has since left Kiev but his whereabouts remain unknown. Ukraine has issued a warrant for his arrest.
Turchynov has called for a new government to be formed by Tuesday with elections set for May 25. In a related development, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who spent the past 30 months in detention, has been freed but immediately ruled out becoming prime minister again.
Tymoshenko’s release was actually part of the European Union-Ukraine trade pact Yanukovych rejected amid great opposition last year that spurred the current crisis when he formed stronger ties with Moscow.
Following his appointment, Turchynov noted the need “to return to the family of European countries.” As a result, European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton will meet with Ukraine’s new leadership Monday in Kiev.
Turchynov has also signaled a willingness to continue a dialogue with Russia, which is extremely unhappy with the recent turn of events.
Washington, on the other hand, supports the new government and has pledged with European allies to help lift Ukraine out its financial doldrums. The Obama administration has also warned Moscow not to intervene militarily in Ukraine to reinstate Yanukovych, who still has some support in his country.
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