The Ukrainian parliament on Sunday voted by an overwhelming margin to temporarily hand over the duties of president to parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov until new elections are held on May 25.
The decision comes one day after parliament voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovych. The legitimacy of the vote remains unclear.
Turchynov urged deputies to agree on the formation of a national unity government by Tuesday. "This is a priority task," he told the chamber.
Turchynov is a close ally of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was freed from prison on Saturday after parliament voted for her immediate release.
According to Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, she spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the phone Sunday. The party said Merkel congratulated Tymoshenko on her release and “expressed the certainty that her return to mainstream politics would become one of the main factors in stabilizing the situation in Ukraine.”
Where is Yanukovych?
Lawmakers also voted to nationalize Yanukovych's luxury private estate on the outskirts of Kyiv. Since he left the capital Saturday, his residence and presidential palace have remained unguarded with protesters and citizens entering freely.
The president's exact whereabouts remain unknown.
Border police were reported to have blocked Yanukovych from flying to Russia on Saturday evening after he appeared on television, reportedly from the east of the country where he has enjoyed loyal support. He said he would not leave the country and that he had no intention of resigning.
"Everything happening today can primarily be described as vandalism, banditry and a coup d'etat. That is my assessment," Yanukovych said.
Financial support for Ukraine
The United States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered Sunday to assist Ukraine in rebuilding its debt-laden economy following the recent tumult.
Fears that Ukraine's battered economy is facing default have sparked panic on markets, with bond yields rising sharply and the local currency, the hryvnia, losing a tenth of its value in the span of a few weeks.
At a meeting with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Sydney, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, "The United States, working with other countries, stands ready to assist Ukraine with its efforts to return to a path of democracy, stability and growth."
IMF chief Christine Lagarde backed this statement by saying the body would also stand ready to help Ukraine, as it is an IMF member.
In November, initial peaceful protests were held in Kyiv after Yanukovych rejected an association treaty with the European Union in favor of strengthening ties with Russia.
In December, Russia offered Ukraine a $15 billion (10.9 billion euro) bailout, but so far has only provided $3 billion, freezing further disbursements pending the outcome of the ongoing crisis.
hc/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)