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Interim cabinet for Ukraine

February 26, 2014

An interim cabinet has been named in Ukraine, which is trying to manoeuvre through turmoil and impending bankruptcy. The appointments came amid fears of confrontation with Russia over Ukraine's east-west allegiances.

Kiew Ukraine Menschen auf dem Maidan
Image: B.Kilic/AFP/GettyImages

Russia to rattle saber near Ukraine

Protest representatives proposed Ukraine's interim cabinet, which is tasked with helping govern the country until elections take place on May 25. The event was held on Wednesday evening on Kyiv's Independence Square (pictured), the site for the past three months of protests that led to the downfall of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The name put forth for the top spot of prime minister was Ukraine's former finance minister and pro-EU protest leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The 39-year-old politician chairs the Fatherland Party of ex-prime minister and Orange Revolution figure Yulia Tymoshenko.

The committee nominated the remaining cabinet members as well, but their names have not yet been released.

Parliament is to formally approve all nominations on Thursday. A delegation comprised of the foreign ministers from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary will then travel to Kyiv on Friday for a meeting with the new administration.

The quick establishment of a new government is a necessary step in order for the EU and the US to throw its financial support behind Ukraine, which is heavily indebted and is also struggling with a weakening national currency that is making repayment more difficult.

Loan guarantees?

Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who helped broker the peace deal that led to the introduction of new leadership in Kyiv, visits Washington on Thursday and Friday for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde on a possible economic package.

"From Germany's perspective, it is appropriate for the international community to close ranks on this," Steinmeier's spokesperson told news agency AFP. "Political stabilization of [Ukraine]…goes hand in hand with a process of economic and financial stabilization…[which] won't be possible without outside help."

Kerry told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the US was mulling providing a $1 billion (728 million euros) loan guarantee to help Ukraine stave off economic collapse and added that the EU was also looking at offering loan guarantees to the former Soviet satellite state.

Kerry: avoid 'Cold War confrontation'

The bid to form a new government in Kyiv came amid heightened tensions with Moscow sparked by the announcement of a Russian military drill, part of which would occur close to the border with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the exercise to test Russia's battle readiness.

Kerry warned that, while Russia should not infringe on Ukraine's sovereignty, Western leaders should not let the incident cloud relations with Moscow.

Russia to rattle saber near Ukraine

"We are making it clear that every country should respect the territorial integrity here, the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia said it will do that, and we think it is important Russia keeps its words," Kerry said in an interview with the MSNBC news show "Andrea Mitchell Reports."

"What we need to do now is not get into an old, Cold War confrontation," Kerry said.

His comments echoed those of NATO defense ministers' whose reaction came during a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen also emphasized the importance of Moscow's involvement in restoring stability in Ukraine.

"One thing is very clear: it is not only in the interest of Germany, but of NATO and Russia, too, that Ukraine finds its way back to stability," von der Leyen said. "The country must not fall apart. Russia needs to be involved, there won't be a solution without Russia."

Pro-EU vs pro-Russia

The political turmoil between supporters of the new government and Ukrainians who still favor closer ties with Moscow became violent on Wednesday.

Thousands of people turned out for counter demonstrations in the southern peninsula Crimea. The situation escalated into fist fights between the pro-Ukrainian protesters - largely made up of ethnic Tatars - and members of the Crimea region's large pro-Russian population.

Russia, for its part, has accused Ukraine's protest movement and its new, pro-West leaders of being right-wing and nationalistic. Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Oganization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the continent's watchdog, to condemn what he called the rise of "nationalist and neo-fascist" sentiment that had emerged in Ukraine.

Protesters clash in Crimea

Lavrov cited, in particular, the attempts by members of Ukraine's new leadership to ban the Russian language in the country, to restore Ukrainian as the obligatory language in official documents and turn the "Russian-speaking population into 'non-citizens.'

The Russian foreign minister later told his German counterpart, Steinmeier, he was concerned about the "hasty" passage of laws in Ukraine.

The escalation in Crimea came a week after heavy clashes in Kyiv between security forces and protesters left at least 82 people dead.

The killings, some by snipers in uniform, prompted the German, French and Polish foreign ministers to broker a deal last Friday between embattled president Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition, which had been calling for his resignation.

On Saturday, Yanukovych left Kyiv after parliament voted him out of office. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Ukrainian authorities have since issued an international Ukraine's parliament asks ICC to put former President Yanukovych on trialwarrant for his arrest on charges of "mass murder.#"

kms/lw,ipj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)