Ukraine interim leaders warn of 'unpopular steps' ahead

Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned the new government was faced with taking ''extremely unpopular steps''

Ukraine's acting President Olexander Turchynov and PM-designate Arseniy Yatsenyuk have warned of the need for "unpopular" steps to help restore the country's economy and politics.

Mr Yatsenyuk told the BBC the central challenge for the newly named government was to "stabilise" Ukraine.

Ukrainian MPs are expected to vote later on the new cabinet line up.

Meanwhile, the regional parliament and government headquarters in Crimea have been seized by armed men.

The two buildings in the regional capital Simferopol were seized overnight by a group of at least 50 pro-Russian men who were preventing government workers from entering, regional Prime Minister Anatoliy Mohilyov told AFP news agency.

The Russian flag was seen flying over both buildings.

Fears over economy

Mr Yatsenyuk and Ukraine's other new ministers were presented to a large crowd at Kiev's Independence Square, the Maidan, on Wednesday evening.

Mr Yatsenyuk, who was one of the main protest leaders, was greeted with cheers.

But the announcement of some other heads of ministries, including Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, prompted booing from the crowd, who said the candidates were not worthy of government posts.

Ukraine's political upheaval has aggravated longer term problems

Other ministers include career diplomat Andriy Deschytsya as foreign minister, a former deputy head of the central bank Oleksander Shlapak as finance minister and Andriy Paruby as secretary of the National Security and Defence Council.

"We are to undertake extremely unpopular steps as the previous government and previous president were so corrupted that the country is in a desperate financial plight," Mr Yatsenyuk told the BBC after the cabinet was announced.

"We are on the brink of a disaster and this is the government of political suiciders. So welcome to hell," he added.

The 39-year-old, who is a former speaker of parliament and foreign minister, is expected to lead the cabinet until early presidential elections on 25 May.

Candidates for ministerial positions stand on the stage during a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, on 26 February 2014. Prominent activists, including Tetyana Chornovol and Dmytro Bulatov, are included in the cabinet line up
People attend a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, February 26, 2014. The ministers received a mixed response from the crowds at Maidan
Acting President Oleksander Turchinov speaks on the stage, with candidates for ministerial positions seen in the background, during a rally in Independence Square in Kiev on 26 February 2014. President Oleksandr Turchynov said the country would descend into "anarchy" without governing structures

Interim President Turchynov warned the crowds the new government would "have to pass unpopular decisions".

"The government will be criticised, treated like dirt. But they must fulfil their obligations and work to the bone for the sake of Ukraine."

He has promised to resign once the country is back on its feet.

Acting government officials predict Ukraine needs $35bn (£21bn) in bailout loans to get through the next two years.

On Wednesday, the US said it was considering offering Ukraine's struggling economy - which faces default - loan guarantees of up to $1bn.

Who is who in Ukraine?

  • Olexandr Turchynov - deputy leader of the Fatherland party and a long-time opponent of Mr Yanukovych; appointed interim president
  • Arsen Avakov - also a key Fatherland MP, now interim interior minister
  • Arseniy Yatsenyuk - parliamentary leader of Fatherland and the main negotiator during Maidan protests; appointed interim prime minister
  • Vitali Klitschko - boxer turned politician who was a leading figure in the Maidan; heads Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (Udar); expected to run for presidency
  • Oleh Tyahnybok - leader of far-right Svoboda (Freedom) party; key Maidan protest leader
  • Yulia Tymoshenko - former prime minister and opponent of Mr Yanukovych; released from jail as opposition took control of parliament; has ruled out running for PM

Meanwhile, Mr Yanukovych has been put on the international wanted list.

The fugitive former president - whose whereabouts are unclear - is accused of being behind last week's deaths of more than 100 protesters at the hands of riot police in and around the Maidan.

Crimea unrest

In Simferopol, armed men seized the Crimean government buildings after the city saw clashes on Wednesday between Ukrainians who support the change of government and pro-Russian activists.

An elderly man died from a suspected heart attack after scuffles between members of a pro-Russian rally and a second rally involving Crimean Tatars and supporters of the new government.

Asked in a BBC interview whether Ukraine would stay united despite the growing tensions, Mr Yatsenyuk said: "In Crimea we always had different sentiments and forces who try to split the country and proclaim separatism." But he said Ukraine "could cope".

Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.

Russia, along with the US, UK and France, pledged to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine in a memorandum signed in 1994.

Ukrainian men help pull one another out of a stampede as a flag of Crimea is seen during clashes at rallies held by ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol on 26 February 2014. Clashes erupted between pro-Russia supporters and people backing the change of government in Kiev in Crimea earlier on Wednesday

US Secretary of State John Kerry has again warned Russia any military intervention in Ukraine would be a "grave mistake".

His remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a snap drill to test the combat readiness of troops in central and western Russia, near the border with Ukraine.

Amidst heightened tensions between Russia and the West, Nato has issued a statement saying it would continue to support Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Unrest in Ukraine first erupted in November, following Mr Yanukovych's last-minute decision to reject a landmark association and trade deal with the European Union in favour of Russia's bailout offer.

Months of anti-government protests reached a tipping point last week when, according to health ministry figures, at least 88 people were killed in clashes between protesters and police.

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