Parliament appoints interim president in Ukraine

BY Kayla Ruble  February 23, 2014 at 1:29 PM EDT
While parliament acts quickly to get interim government in place, demonstrators continue to gather and mourn victims in Kiev’s Independence Square. Credit: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

While Ukraine’s parliament acts quickly to name an interim government, mourners gather at a memorial for victims of violent clashes during protests at Kiev’s Independence Square. Credit: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

In a vote on Sunday, the Ukrainian parliament named its speaker and top opposition member Oleksander Turchinov as interim president. Turchinov will assume presidential powers until elections to be held on May 25.

Turchinov is a close ally of former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. She was released on Saturday after being imprisoned for two and a half years on abuse of office charges.

An interim prime minister is expected to be nominated on Tuesday. Many thought Tymoshenko would take the post, but she released a statement on Saturday asking not to be nominated.

While the parliament’s legitimacy remains unclear, the embattled Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has called the legislators’ recent actions illegal.

Yanukovych left Kiev on Saturday for eastern Ukraine after a week of deadly clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters. Reports say the leader fled to the city of Kharkiv in the east part of the country where his support base remains intact.

Concerns have arisen in recent days about the possibility of a split between pro-Russian eastern Ukraine and the European leaning western part of the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly spoke on the phone Sunday and agreed the former Soviet country should remain united.

Ukraine’s economy remains in a fragile state. According to the Associated Press, Russia’s finance minister pushed for Ukraine to request a loan from the International Monetary Fund to avoid a default.

The European Commission said it was prepared to provide aid and finalize a trade agreement once Ukraine has formed a new government