Monday, July 28, 2014


Ukraine

Ukraine's Parliament Wants Yanukovych, Others Tried At Hague

People look at a "Wanted" notice for fugitive President Victor Yanukovych, plastered on the window of a car used as barricade near Kyiv's Independence Square on February 24.
People look at a "Wanted" notice for fugitive President Victor Yanukovych, plastered on the window of a car used as barricade near Kyiv's Independence Square on February 24.
By RFE/RL
Ukraine's parliament has voted in favor of having ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and others brought to trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for serious crimes.

The Verkhovna Rada on February 25 overwhelmingly backed a resolution saying Yanukovych, former Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, former Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka, and others should be tried at the ICC for "crimes against humanity" allegedly committed during the brutal crackdown on antigovernment protesters.

More than 100 people were killed in clashes between antigovernment protesters and riot police.

Yanukovych, who was ousted by parliament on February 22, is on the run. Zakharchenko and Pshonka are also being sought by Ukrainian authorities.

Also, Andriy Klyuyev, a close aide to Yanukovych who is also on the run, has reportedly been shot. His spokesman, Artem Petrenko, said he was told that Klyuyev, the head of Yanukovych's administration, had come under fire by unknown attackers and was wounded, but that his life was not in danger. Petrenko said he had not spoken to Klyuyev himself and did not know where he was.

Yanukovych had left Kyiv before the vote and his whereabouts remains unknown. He was last reported seen in the pro-Russian Crimea.

The ICC says it needs a request from Ukraine's government giving it jurisdiction to investigate Yanukovych and others over deaths during the protests.

 
LIVE BLOG: Crisis In Ukraine

Earlier, the Verkhovna Rada put off plans to vote on the formation of a national-unity government until February 27.

The vote had been expected on February 25, but Oleksandr Turchynov, the speaker of the assembly and the country's acting president, told the chamber that the vote was put off to allow more time for consultations.

Later, Turchynov expressed concern about "signs of separatism" and threats to Ukraine's territorial integrity following protests in Crimea, where many residents are pro-Russian, against Ukraine's new authorities.

Both Russia, and Western countries which backed the opposition movement, have warned of the threat of growing instability linked to a split between Ukraine's Western-leaning and Russian-speaking regions.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission issued a timeline ahead of the May 25 snap presidential election. It said candidates had until April 4 to register for the race.

Vitali Klitschko has confirmed that he will run. "I will be on the ballot for the post of president of Ukraine," Klitschko, the leader of the UDAR party, told journalists on February 25.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is also seen as a potential candidate. Tymoshenko, who was Yanukovych's chief political rival, was released from prison on February 22 and has announced her intention to seek medical treatment for chronic back pain in Germany next month.

Ashton Urges Russian Understanding

In Kyiv, the European Union's foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, called on Russia to behave like a good neighbor toward Ukraine and let it move forward in the way it chooses.

Speaking at a press conference on February 25, Ashton voiced "strong support" for Ukraine's new leaders. She is the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine since parliament ousted Yanukovych on February 22.

Ashton also urged Ukraine's new authorities to form an "inclusive" government. She said the new government must work out a reform program so that the West could consider financial aid to the country's battered economy.
 
She said the EU was considering possible short-term and long-term loans to Ukraine, but provided no details. She said the EU would work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but that the IMF would make its own assessment of the situation.

WATCH:  Ukrainians honor victims of clashes in Kyiv.
Ukrainians Honor Victims Of Clashes In Kyivi
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February 25, 2014
Hundreds of people in the Ukrainian capital laid flowers, lit candles, and left crosses at makeshift memorials on February 25 to pay their respects to those killed in clashes with government forces. One of the memorials was on Instytutska Street, where many antigovernment protesters were shot dead on February 20. (RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)

Earlier in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the decision to hold an early presidential election in Ukraine.

Lavrov said the plan contradicted an EU-backed crisis-settlement deal signed on February 21 that stipulated that constitutional reform should come first.

Lavrov, speaking at a joint news conference with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn on February 25, said Ukraine must not be forced to chose between close ties with Russia or the West. "It is dangerous and counterproductive to try to force upon Ukraine a choice on the principle: 'You are either with us or against us,'" he said.

Lavrov said Russia had reaffirmed its position of noninterference in Ukraine's internal affairs and expected its Western partners to do the same. For his part, Asselborn said the situation in Ukraine could stabilize only if Russia and the European Union cooperate closely.

West Urging Reforms

In Kyiv, Western diplomats have scheduled meetings with Ukraine's new leadership to urge speedy political and economic reforms.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is due in Kyiv for talks with Ukraine's new interim leadership on February 25.

Burns is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the country since U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met antigovernment protesters in Kyiv in December.

Washington said ahead of Burns' arrival that he will urge the formation of a national-unity government, along with speedy political and economic reforms.

The EU's Ashton arrived in Kyiv on February 24 and held talks with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, while British Foreign Secretary William Hague says he will visit "shortly."

All have expressed concerns about Ukraine’s fragile financial system and the urgent need for international assistance to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts.

On February 24, Ukraine issued an arrest warrant for Yanukovych that charges him with the "mass murder" of demonstrators in Kyiv last week.

Kyiv also appealed on February 24 for $35 billion in international aid while Moscow denounced Ukraine’s new interim leadership as illegitimate.

Moscow had promised a $15 billion bailout package to Ukraine under Yanukovych's leadership last year. But Kremlin officials now say they will wait to see the shape of a new government in Kyiv before deciding whether to disburse the next tranche of that bailout package.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and AP

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