A Day Away From New Government, Ukraine Seeks Stability
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We begin this hour with the latest developments from Ukraine and some of the responses from Western powers. Washington is offering financial advice and is now considering a $1 billion loan-guarantee package to help support the Ukrainian economy. In a moment, we'll hear how the British government views the crisis.
But first, in an effort to create some stability, a new cabinet was named in Kiev today. Ukrainian's former finance minister will serve as the country's acting prime minister. This comes as tensions in pro-Russian eastern Ukrainian and Crimea are rising. NPR's Peter Kenyon begins our coverage from Kiev.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The crowd in Independent Square was in no mood for business as usual.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
KENYON: Heroes don't die was the chant after a public funeral for one of the estimated 88 demonstrators who died when riot police, backed by snipers, stormed the square last week. For those standing vigil here, those people didn't die to recycle familiar political faces. There were some boos when interim president Olexander Turchynov addressed the crowd. He appealed urgently for their support and described the new government as people who are sacrificing their popularity and possibly their careers to implement the kind of painful but badly needed economic austerity measures past governments have avoided.
OLEXANDER TURCHYNOV: (Through translator) Friends, I want to tell you that this cabinet is doomed. Three or four months and they won't be able to work anymore because they have to implement very unpopular decisions, not those decisions chanted by the populous but the ones that will prevent Ukraine from default, restore the trust of investors and help provide a normal life for Ukrainians.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Olexander Turchynov, (unintelligible)...
KENYON: The names of cabinet ministers were read out, some clearly technocrats, others making a return to power, such as the proposed foreign minister who has held the post twice before. The new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is from the Yulia Tymoshenko camp. Tymoshenko herself, recently out of jail, may run for president on May 25th. Yatsenyuk's return to power was a severe disappointment to Ukrainians such as Darya Tsymbalyuk, who says the last thing she wants for Ukraine's future is the return of the Tymoshenko-Yatsenyuk camp to power.
DARYA TSYMBALYUK: Ms. Tymoshenko especially because she belongs to the old system. And I don't think she'll bring any changes, yeah? And I don't think people - I mean, people who have died, they didn't die for her. I don't mind her to be liberated, but I think if she has any kind of dignity, she should leave politics.
: (Foreign language spoken)
KENYON: To the southeast, tensions were rising in Simferopol, capital of the semi-autonomous Crimean Peninsula. Pro-Russian demonstrators faced off opposite Muslim Crimean Tatars, waving Ukrainian flags and demanding to stay with Ukraine. Orders from Moscow to check troop readiness near the country's border with Ukraine and to ensure the safety of the Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol further inflamed anxieties.
Asan, a Tatar who took part in the demonstration, reached by phone, said their message is simple, avoid violence and keep Crimea as it is.
ASAN: (Through translator) Crimean Tatars are protecting the current status of Crimea as part of an independent Ukraine. The other side came out with slogans like Crimea is Russia and so on, and complained about some kind of mythical oppression of Russian-speaking Ukrainians
KENYON: Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who is not especially popular even in Crimea, it seems, is believed to be hiding somewhere in the pro-Russian east, a fugitive from the new opposition-led authorities. His future is just one more question mark in a country riddled with uncertainties. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Kiev.
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