NH Sen. Ayotte: Put pressure on Putin to stay out of Ukraine
A woman kneels in front of a Ukrainian riot police unit Sunday during rallies by anti- and pro-Yanukovich supporters in the city of Donetsk. (REUTERS)
A day after Yanukovich fled to the Russian-speaking east following dozens of deaths during street protests aimed at toppling him, parliament named new speaker Oleksander Turchinov as acting president. An ally of the ousted leader's long-jailed rival Yulia Tymoshenko, he aims to swear in a government by Tuesday that can provide authority until a presidential election on May 25.
"I believe the President needs to up his game and send a clear unequivocal public message to Putin not to interfere in what is happening in the Ukraine, to let the Ukrainian people determine their future," the New Hampshire Republican told Fox interviewers. "This is an opportunity for the President to really be unequivocal with Putin."
Ukraine depends on Russia for most of its natural gas and oil supplies. Russia has a naval base at Sebastopol in the Ukrainian province of Crimea.
Yanukovich's flight into hiding left Putin's Ukraine policy in tatters, on a day he had hoped eyes would be on the grand finale to the Sochi Olympics. The Kremlin leader spoke on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose foreign minister had brokered a short-lived truce in Kiev on Friday.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was asked if Russia might "send in the tanks" to defend its interests among ethnic Russians in the east and on the Crimea peninsula, where Moscow bases its Black Sea Fleet: "It would really not be in the interests of Russia to do any such thing," he told the BBC.
In Russia, where Putin had wanted Ukraine as a key part in a union of ex-Soviet states, the finance minister said the next installment of a $15-billion loan package agreed in December would not be paid, at least before a new government is formed.
In a hectic round of voting in parliament, lawmakers rushed in some crowd-pleasing measures against the old administration, conscious that those still occupying Independence Square — or the Maidan — remain deeply suspicious of the political class.
His ally, Tymoshenko, defeated by Yanukovich in a 2010 presidential election and was later jailed for corruption, ruled herself out as interim premier. Freed from a prison hospital on Saturday after more than two years in jail, she may want time to recover and build support before running for the presidency.
On Independence Square, men were still wandering around with clubs and wearing homemade body armor, helmets and in some cases ski masks and camouflage fatigues.
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