Ukraine appoints pro-West leader as president Yanukovych is impeached

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 4:37am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 9:37am

Watch: Ukraine ushers in new era as president flees

Ukraine's parliament yesterday appointed a pro-West interim leader after impeaching a defiant President Viktor Yanukovych, whose whereabouts remained a mystery.

In Kiev, the city's police presence vanished and protesters took control of everything from traffic management to protection of government buildings.

Lawmakers, who ordered the release of former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on Saturday, voted to name Tymoshenko ally Oleksandr Turchynov, himself appointed as parliament speaker on Saturday, as interim president with the task of forming a government by tomorrow.

Parliament also dismissed the foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara, who had defended the swerve of his boss away from the European Union. The education minister, Dmitry Tabachnik, an unpopular figure accused by many of bringing a pro-Russia interpretation of Ukrainian history to school primers, quickly followed.

The parliament took the symbolic step of handing over Yanukovych's marble-lined mansion outside Kiev to the state.

Yanukovych was dealt another blow when his own Regions Party issued a statement condemning him for issuing "criminal orders" that led to so many deaths.

Some of his aides fled Ukraine and the president himself was accused by border officials of a failed attempt to fly out of the country.

But tensions mounted in Crimea, where Moscow maintains a big naval base, as pro-Russia politicians organised rallies. Protest units demanding autonomy from Kiev have formed there.

German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel spoke to Tymoshenko and the two would meet soon, the freed opposition leader's party said.

A spokesman for the German leader said she also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and both agreed that Ukraine's "territorial integrity" must be safeguarded.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Reuters