Ukraine in limbo of post-Yanukovych era

Ukraine in limbo of post-Yanukovych era

İrem KÖKER Hürriyet / KIEV
Ukraine in limbo of post-Yanukovych era

A crowd of people attend a rally at Independence Square in Kiev on Feb 22, a night before the Parliament voted to appoint Parliamentary Speaker Oleksandr Turchinov as the interim president. HÜRRİYET photo, Levent KULU

As hundreds of Ukrainians celebrated the post-Yanukovych era in front of the Parliament in Kiev Feb 23, politicians kept running around with a hectic agenda. “I’m in a hurry. We need to form a new government. Negotiations are going on so fast,” former foreign minister Petro Poroshenko told daily Hürriyet as he entered the Parliament building.

Opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko, who walked free on Feb. 22 capping three months of anti-government protests, is playing a key role in negotiations, Hürriyet learned. 

While Tymoshenko met EU ambassadors Feb. 23, a deputy from opposition leader Vitali Klitschko’s party, UDAR, didn’t rule out a chance for “the Iron Lady” to be prime minister again. “This is a democratic country. Of course, she can try her luck by being an electoral candidate,” he said. 

Another member of Parliament, who also spoke to daily Hürriyet on condition of anonymity, said that Yanukovych was staying in a summer cottage of an unnamed oligarch near Kharkiv. “We learned that armed men are on duty in front of the building and security is tight. This is the latest information that the Parliament received,” he said. Most people in the region reportedly supported Yanukovych.

“Nobody should worry. A government will be formed by Tuesday. There is no risk for Ukraine to be divided. People speak different languages, but they all say that they are Ukrainians,” former minister of finance Victor Pynzenyk told Hürriyet. 

Ukraine is deeply divided between eastern regions that are largely pro-Russian and western areas that widely detest Yanukovych and long for closer ties with the European Union. Yanukovych’s shelving of an agreement with the EU in November set off the wave of protests, but they quickly expanded their grievances to corruption, human rights abuses and calls for Yanukovych’s resignation.

The Kiev protest camp at the center of the anti-Yanukovych movement filled with more and more dedicated demonstrators Feb. 23, setting up new tents after two days that saw a stunning reversal of fortune in Ukraine’s political crisis.

Russia leans on Tymoshenko

Russia’s position will be important for the future of this country, since Moscow has been providing financing to keep Ukraine’s economy afloat and the two countries have deep but complicated ties. Russia’s finance minister Feb. 23 urged Ukraine to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund to avoid an imminent default. 

Signs emerged Feb. 23 that Russia might throw its weight behind Tymoshenko. And a leading Russian lawmaker, Leonid Slutsky, said Feb. 23 that naming Tymoshenko prime minister “would be useful for stabilizing” the tensions in Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies.

The political crisis in this nation of 46 million has changed with blinding speed repeatedly in the past week. First there were signs that tensions were easing, followed by horrifying violence and then a deal signed under Western pressure that aimed to resolve the conflict but left the unity of the country in question. The newly emboldened parliament, in a special session Feb. 23, voted overwhelmingly to temporarily hand the president’s powers to speaker Oleksandr Turchinov, a top ally of Tymoshenko. The legislators also voted to remove a string of government ministers and may name a prime minister.

However the legitimacy of the parliament’s flurry of decisions in recent days is under question. The votes are based on a decision Feb. 21 to return to a 10-year-old constitution that grants parliament greater powers. Yanukovych has not signed that decision into law, and he said Feb. 22 that the parliament is now acting illegally.