February 24

Ukraine issues arrest warrant for missing leader

Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Viktor Yanukovych on trial, after a presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and family and cracked down on protesters.

By Yuras Karmanau And Maria Danilova
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A man lights a candle at a memorial for the people killed in clashes with police at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday. Ukraine’s acting government issued a warrant Monday for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych, accusing him of mass crimes against protesters who stood up for months against his rule.

The Associated Press

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People flock to the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, on Monday. Ukraine’s acting government issued a warrant Monday for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych, accusing him of mass crimes against protesters who stood up for months against his rule.

The Associated Press

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Although Russia has questioned the new government’s legitimacy, European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly referred to Turchinov as the “interim president.”

NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, discussed Ukraine with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces, and they agreed to keep each other informed about developments in the country.

Tensions, meanwhile, have been mounting in Crimea in southern Ukraine. Russia maintains a large naval base in Sevastopol that has strained relations between the countries for two decades.

Pro-Russian protesters gathered in front of city hall in the port of Sevastopol on Monday chanting “Russia! Russia!”

“Extremists have seized power in Kiev and we must defend Crimea. Russia must help us with that,” said Anataly Mareta, head of a Cossack militia in Sevastopol.

The head of the city administration in Sevastopol quit Monday amid the turmoil, and protesters replaced a Ukrainian flag near the city hall building with a Russian flag.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on the turmoil in Ukraine will be crucial to the future of Crimea and to Ukraine. Putin spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by telephone Sunday and the German government said the two agreed that Ukraine’s “territorial integrity must be respected.”

On Monday, German government spokesman Steffan Seibert said Ukraine’s new leaders should consider the interests of the south and east – the pro-Russian sections of Ukraine – in the composition of a new government. He also said the offer of an association agreement with the EU is still on the table.

As president, Yanukovych consolidated power and wealth, curbed free speech and oversaw the imprisonment of his top political rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. But as protesters took control of the capital over the weekend, many allies turned against him, and Tymoshenko, the charismatic heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, is back on the political scene after being freed from prison over the weekend.

The current protest movement in Ukraine has been in large part a fight for the country’s economic future.

Ukraine has a large potential consumer market, an educated workforce, a significant industrial base and good natural resources, in particular rich farmland. Yet its economy is in tatters due to corruption, bad government and short-sighted reliance on cheap gas from Russia.

The public deficit is rising and the economy may be back in recession. The government burned through about a tenth of its $17.8 billion in foreign reserves last month to support the currency, which has fallen 6 percent since the protests began.

“The state treasury has been torn apart, the country has been brought to bankruptcy,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a protest leader and prominent lawmaker whose name is being floated as a possible prime minister.

Ukraine’s acting finance minister said the country needs $35 billion (25.5 billion euros) to finance government needs this year and next and expressed hope for rapid Western help.

Meanwhile, parliament voted to dismiss more of Yanukovych’s lieutenants and replace them with new ones. They named a new head of the central bank, a new chief of the nation’s top security agency, a new head of the foreign intelligence service and a new chief prosecutor.

Danilova reported from Kiev. Angela Charlton, Jim Heintz and Dusan Stojanovic in Kiev, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels and Robert Reid in Berlin contributed to this report.

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