Arrest warrant for Ukraine’s fugitive leader

Ukraine issued an arrest warrant yesterday for its ousted pro-Russian president over “mass murder” and appealed for $35bn (€25bn) in Western aid as Moscow denounced Kiev’s new reformist interim government as “Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks.”

The dramatic announcements by the Western-leaning ministers — approved by parliament over a chaotic weekend that saw president Viktor Yanukovych go into hiding — came as the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Kiev to buttress Ukraine’s sudden tilt away from Russia.

Ukraine’s new leaders yesterday held Yanukovych and about 50 other senior state and security officials responsible for the protesters’ deaths.

“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 interior minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement.

Avakov said Yanukovych had tried to flee the country Saturday out of the eastern city of Donetsk — his political power base and bastion of pro-Russian support — before escaping to Crimea with a team of guards and a cache of weapons.

He said the deposed head of state and his powerful administration chief Andriy Klyuev had since “travelled by three cars into an unknown direction, having first switched off their modes of communication”.

World finance chiefs from Europe, the US and the International Monetary Fund were discussing how to help out Ukraine.

Ukraine’s interim finance minister Yuriy Kolobov said the “planned volume of macroeconomic assistance for Ukraine may reach around $35bn” by the end of next year.

He called for an international donors conference, an appeal also made by Greece which currently holds the EU presidency to avoid “disorder and default”.

Russia’s vocal displeasure at the changes convulsing its neighbour has translated into fears that Moscow’s massive $15bn rescue may be abandoned after only one payment of $3bn that came through in December and has been used up.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev issued one of Moscow’s firmest responses to date by condemning the “armed mutiny” in Ukraine.

“The legitimacy of a whole number of organs of power that function there raises great doubts,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

“Some of our foreign, Western partners think otherwise,” Medvedev fumed. “This is some kind of (an) aberration.”

French President Francois Hollande spoke with Putin yesterday saying a “peaceful transition” was necessary to assure that the country remained unified, and lead to elections and vital reforms.

Ukraine’s new interim leader Oleksandr Turchynov warned that Kiev would have no alternative but to default on $13bn in foreign obligations this year should the West fail to fill in for aid suspended from Moscow.

London’s Capital Economics consultancy said Ukraine probably needed a bailout of around $20bn to sustain its finances

Adding to the diplomatic effort, Washington is sending Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to Kiev tomorrow, while Britain announced that Foreign Secretary William Hague will visit Ukraine “shortly”.

The spokeswomen of recently released former premier Yulia Tymoshenko stressed that the 53-year-old — who had appeared before the crowds in a wheelchair on Saturday because of back problems — had made no decision about running for president in May.

Her website yesterday said that Tymoshenko had accepted an invitation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to receive treatment on her back in Berlin.


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