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Ukraine parliament convenes for first time

November 27, 2014

Following a resounding victory for pro-Western parties in October, Ukraine's new parliament has convened for the first time. It has already selected its prime minister and speaker.

Ukraine 1. Sitzung des neuen Parlaments 27.11.2014
Image: Reuters/G. Garanich

In Kyiv on Thursday, Ukraine's members of parliament gathered to begin the process of confirming a new government. The session was its first since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February, after which interim leaders governed the country.

Violence between pro-West and pro-Russia supporters began last year on Maidan Square as mass popular protests spiraled out of control. The movement forced the departure of the previous government and soon saw the incursion of Moscow in Crimea, where Russia said it was supporting ethnic Russians who now feared Kyiv. Soon thereafter, fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatist rebels and the Ukrainian military, claiming over 4,300 lives.

At its first sitting on Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament - known as the Verkohovna Rada - held a moment of silence to remember those who have died in the unrest over the past year, with nearly 1,000 having been killed in eastern Ukraine since a truce was agreed in September.

Ukraine 1. Sitzung des neuen Parlaments 27.11.2014
The first parliamentary session was held under high securityImage: Reuters/V. Ogirenko

Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk was then nominated to stay on in the same role, while former Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman was elected as speaker.

Yatsenyuk's party came in second in October elections, behind President Petro Poroshenko's party, which holds some 419 seats in parliament. Last Friday, both of the leaders' parties agreed to enter in a coalition with three other pro-Western factions to form a new government.

The cabinet is to be formed in its next session on Tuesday.

NATO warns of Russian incursion

Prior to Thursday's parliamentary session, NATO's military chief, US General Philip Breedlove, warned of the threat of a Russian incursion, not only along Ukraine's eastern border, but also in the Black Sea.

Russia has been "training, equipping, [and] giving backbone" to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, Breedlove told reporters during a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday.

Moscow had two naval bases in Crimea for its Black Sea Fleet before annexing the peninsula in March. However, Breedlove pointed to Russia's recent deployment of 14 military jets to Crimea in a bid to amp up its military forces in the Black Sea region.

"We are very concerned with the militarization of Crimea," Breedlove said. "The capabilities that are being installed in Crimea ... are able to exert influence over the entire Black Sea."

Meanwhile in eastern Ukraine, at least two civilians were killed in fighting. Observers from the OSCE also reported coming under fire while being escorted by the Ukrainian military northeast of Donetsk. Last week, the organization said it had been fired at intentionally by rebels for the first time.

Public support for joining NATO has grown in Ukraine in recent months. A recent poll cited by news agency AFP showed 51 percent of respondents in favor of joining the international military alliance.

kms/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)