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With ousted President on the run, Ukraine delays forming new government

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By Jethro Mullen. Nick Paton Walsh and Laura Smith-Spark

KIEV, Ukraine (CNN) -- Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchinov on Tuesday delayed the appointment of an interim unity government until Thursday, prolonging the country's instability after the President was ousted.

A dramatic sequence of political upheaval has unfolded in Ukraine in recent days after months of anti-government protests.

Last week, bloody street clashes between demonstrators and security forces left more than 80 dead, the deadliest violence in the country since its independence 22 years ago.

Parliament has ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, the focus of protesters' anger, and authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest over civilian deaths. But his whereabouts are unknown.

Lawmakers in Kiev are hurriedly trying to form a temporary administration that can steer Ukraine through the uncertainty before presidential elections, which are scheduled for late May.

Turchinov announced the holdup in doing so in a parliament session Tuesday morning.

At the same session, parliament voted to ask the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to investigate the "illegal actions of the main members of the government" from November 13 until now.

Lawmakers also voted to hold mayoral and city council elections on May 25, alongside presidential elections.

Parliament has appointed Turchinov, the parliamentary speaker, to serve as acting President and fired several of Yanukovych's ministers.

On Monday, parliament continued its overhaul of top posts, naming a new chief prosecutor, security service chief and central bank head.

Those now in power in the capital face a raft of challenges: the division between the east and west of the country, protesters eager for bigger changes in government, a floundering economy riddled with corruption and the intentions of Russia, a vital supplier of natural gas and a key backer of Yanukovych.

Leadership change

The head of Ukraine's electoral commission, Konstantin Khivrenko, said the campaign to elect a new president would begin Tuesday, three months before the May 25 election date set by authorities.

Russia's Foreign Ministry criticized those elections Monday, saying Ukraine's parliament was acting rashly, and accused lawmakers of discriminating against ethnic Russians, most of whom live in the east of the country, by excluding them from the reform process.

"A course has been set for suppressing those who disagree in different regions of Ukraine with methods of dictatorship and terror," the Foreign Ministry said.

U.S. officials have expressed support for the parliament's actions, saying they want the country to remain unified.

Protesters gathered outside parliament Monday, shouting "shame" in response to what they see as a lack of transparency on the part of lawmakers.

East-west divide

Yanukovych's decision to scrap a European Union trade deal in favor of one with Russia prompted the protests in November.

Now, the country's new leaders have made it clear that Kiev's return to European integration will be a priority. But in doing so, they risk losing the largess that the Kremlin had bestowed on Yanukovych.

Taking no chances, interim Finance Minister Yury Kolobov proposed Monday that an international donor conference be held in the next two weeks. Ukraine, he said, will need $35 billion in foreign assistance by the end of 2015.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday warned the United States and European Union against turning Ukraine against its neighbor.

"The relationship is not always developing in constructive ways. We have confirmed our position of not intervening in Ukraine politics," he said. "We hope all channels will be used to calm the situation in Ukraine."

Lavrov said Russia was working with EU officials in Brussels, Belgium.

He added, "It is not a good position to impose to Ukraine that 'either you are with us or without us.' But we hope it will become our full partner in the near future."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appealed Tuesday "to all our international partners, in particular Russia, to work constructively with us to guarantee a united Ukraine that can be a factor for stability in the European continent; a Ukraine that will have good relations both with its western as with its eastern partners."

'People want to be united'

Yanukovych has relied upon eastern Ukraine, which borders Russia, as his traditional support base. Russian culture and language are predominant there.

Many people in the east are suspicious of the Europe-leaning views of those in western Ukraine, who were at the heart of the protests against Yanukovych that filled central Kiev for months.

Yanukovych insisted in a televised address over the weekend that he was still the legitimate President. But many senior Ukrainian officials appear to be turning their backs on their former leader.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Yuriy Sergeyev told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday that Yanukovych and his government had "betrayed" the Ukrainian people.

But Sergeyev said the country is not as divided as some observers suggest.

"They don't want any civil war; people want to be united," he said.

The old guard

Yanukovych's ouster was followed by the release over the weekend of one of his most bitter political foes, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. She had spent 2½ years in prison, most of it in a detention hospital.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with her Tuesday in Kiev, before meeting civil society leaders.

On Monday, Ashton spoke with Ukraine's three main opposition party leaders: Vitali Klitschko of the UDAR party; Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Tymoshenko's Batkivschina, or Fatherland, party; and OlegTyahnybok, of the nationalist right-wing party Svoboda, or Freedom.

Tymoshenko, a longtime opposition leader and ally of Turchinov, has hinted she may be interested in running for the presidency.

But some observers aren't convinced that's what most Ukrainians want.

Tymoshenko, 53, is considered a hero of the 2004 "Orange Revolution," which successfully challenged the results of an election won by Yanukovych.

But she is less well regarded for her time as Prime Minister between 2007 and 2010, when she was ousted after losing to Yanukovych in elections.

"She was a very corrupt leader," said Julia Ioffe, senior editor at The New Republic. "She was part of the reason the 'Orange Revolution' failed."

She was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of abuse of authority over a natural gas deal negotiated with Russia. Western governments said the case against her was politically motivated.

Amid the changes now under way, those involved in the recent street protests have expressed a desire for a new, untainted generation of leaders to step forward.

"A lot of people who made this revolution feel like this movement has created a lot of new leaders, a lot of young leaders -- that now it's their turn," Ioffe told "CNN Newsroom" over the weekend.

 

Nick Paton Walsh reported from Kiev, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. Ralph Ellis, Azad Safarov and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

 

The-CNN-Wire

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