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Ukrainian parliament appoints speaker as acting president

Published time: February 23, 2014 10:43
Edited time: February 23, 2014 15:04

Combo of file pictures shows Aleksandr Turchinov (left) and Viktor Yanukovich (Reuters / Anatolii Stepanov, AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)

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The opposition-controlled Ukrainian parliament has voted to appoint its freshly-elected Speaker Aleksandr Turchinov as acting president. MPs supporting the move arguing that President Yanukovich has de facto resigned his office.

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Viktor Yanukovich previously rejected opposition calls to voluntarily step down, which would have saved the parliament taking constitutional impeachment procedures. But parliament, which sees itself as the only legitimate body in Ukraine, decided to replace the president without an impeachment.

Turchinov was elected the new speaker of the parliament on Saturday after his predecessor, Vladimir Rybak, resigned his position after the opposition took control of the legislature.

Parliament is considering a number of key decisions that need to be taken in order to assume full power in Ukraine, including appointing a new prime minister, a new prosecutor general and other top officials.

It has also voted to oust top figures of the Yanukovich government, with the latest victims being acting Foreign Minister, Leonid Kozhara, acting Education Minister Dmitry Tabachnik and acting health minister Raisa Bogatyryova.

Among other bills the parliament is to consider are one outlawing Yanukovich’s Party of Regions and the Ukrainian Communist Party, both of which have elected MPs in the parliament. And another one seeks to censor Russian media, accusing them of biased reporting on the protests in Ukraine.

The new authorities in Kiev say they are seeking the arrest of former senior officials, like former Incomes Minister Aleksandr Klimenko and former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka. Both were reportedly stopped on Saturday by border control due to lack of proper paperwork, as they were trying to leave Ukraine.

The legitimation of the power grab comes a day after several regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced that they do not consider the Ukrainian parliament legitimate and would not abide by its orders. The regions also said they would be forming local militias to resist possible incursions of radical activists from western Ukraine and Kiev.

The three month-long political crisis in Ukraine escalated on Tuesday, with radical opposition activists and riot police engaged in two days of gunfighting in Kiev, resulting in some 80 people losing their lives. In the face of the bloodshed, the central Ukrainian government collapsed under opposition pressure, while President Yanukovich left the capital and went to the east of the country.

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