Ukraine: No new government before Thursday

Written by Associated Press | Kiev | Updated: Feb 26 2014, 00:14am hrs
Viktor YanukovychThe Ukrainian parliament today delayed the formation of a new government. AP
The Ukrainian parliament today delayed the formation of a new government, reflecting political tensions and economic challenges following the ouster of the Russia-backed president.

Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchinov, who was named Ukraine's interim leader after President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital, said that a new government should be in place by Thursday, instead of today, as he had earlier indicated.

Turchinov is now nominally in charge of this strategic country of 46 million whose ailing economy faces the risk of default and whose loyalties are sharply torn between Europe and longtime ruler Russia.

Law enforcement agencies have issued an arrest warrant for Yanukovych over the killing of 82 people, mainly protesters, the bloodiest violence in Ukraine's post-Soviet history that precipitated him fleeing the capital on Friday after signing a deal with opposition leaders to end months of violent clashes between protesters and police.

For months, thousands of people have been protesting against Yanukovych's decision to ditch an agreement for closer ties with the European Union and turn to Russia instead.

The parliament sacked some of Yanukovych's lieutenants and named their replacement, but it has yet to appoint the new premier and fill all remaining government posts. Yanukovych's whereabouts are unknown. He was last reportedly seen in the Crimea, a pro-Russia area.

Meanwhile, a campaign for May 25 presidential election was formally launched today, with Yanukovych's arch-rival former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko widely seen as a top contender for the post.

She was freed from prison on Saturday after spending 2 years there. Her lawyer said, however, that she hasn't yet declared whether to run.

Turchinov moved quickly to open a dialogue with the West, saying at a meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday that the course toward closer integration with Europe and financial assistance from the EU were "key factors of stable and democratic development of Ukraine."