The Ukraine yesterday issued an arrest warrant for ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for the “mass murder” of protesters and appealed for US$35 billion in Western aid to pull the crisis-hit nation from the brink of economic collapse.
The dramatic announcements by the ex-Soviet nation’s new West-leaning team — approved by parliament over a chaotic weekend that saw the pro-Russian leader go into hiding — came as EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton arrived in Kiev to buttress its sudden tilt away from Moscow.
Financial assistance from European powers is set to dominate the agenda of Ashton’s two-day visit.
Three months of protests over Yanukovych’s decision to spurn an historic pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Moscow culminated in days of carnage last week in Kiev that claimed almost 100 lives.
“A criminal case has been launched over the mass murder of peaceful civilians. Yanukovych and a number of other officials have been put on a wanted list,” Acting Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov said in a statement.
Ukraine has been reeling from both political and financial crises that have seen the nation of 46 million face the threat of splintering between its pro-Western and more Russified regions.
Moscow on Sunday recalled Russian Ambassador to the Urkaine Mikhail Zurabov “due to the escalation of the situation in Ukraine.”
Russia’s displeasure at the Ukraine’s transformation saw it suspend the second tranche of a US$15 billion bailout. Kiev fears Moscow’s massive rescue may be abandoned after only one payment of US$3 billion that came through in December last year and has been used up.
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov warned that Kiev would have no choice but to default on US$13 billion in foreign obligations due this year should the West fail to fill in for Moscow’s aid.