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Ex-Ukraine president wanted for mass murder

KIEV--Ukraine issued an arrest warrant Monday for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych over the “mass murder” of protesters and appealed for US$35 billion in Western aid to pull the crisis-hit country from the brink of economic collapse.

The dramatic announcements by the ex-Soviet nation's new Western-leaning team — approved by parliament over a chaotic weekend that saw the pro-Russian leader go into hiding — came as a top EU envoy arrived in Kiev to buttress its sudden tilt away from Moscow.

Three months of unceasing protests over Yanukovych's shock decision to spurn an historic pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with its old masters in the Kremlin culminated in days of carnage last week in Kiev that claimed almost 100 lives.

Ukraine's new interim head of the federal police said he held Yanukovych and his team of feared security insiders directly responsible for the 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 on 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 the next day.

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

Ukraine has been reeling from both political and financial crises that have seen the nation of 46 million face the threat of splintering between its pro-Western and more Russified regions and having to declare a devastating default.

World financial chiefs meeting in Sydney at the weekend raised the possibility of drumming up a huge rescue package that could fill in for US$15 billion promised to Yanukovych by Russian President Vladimir Putin — money that is now on potentially permanent hold.

Ukraine's interim finance minister Yuriy Kolobov said the “planned volume of macroeconomic assistance for Ukraine may reach around US$35 billion (25 billion euros)” by the end of next year.

He urged Western nations and the International Monetary Fund to convene a donor conference in the next two weeks that would focus on “allocating aid to modernize and reform Ukraine.”

Western Rescue

Russia's vocal displeasure at the changes convulsing its neighbor has translated into fears in Kiev that Moscow's massive rescue may be abandoned after only one payment of US$3 billion 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.”

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A man holds a Ukrainian flag as he stands in Kiev's Independence Square on Monday, Feb. 24. Ukraine issued an arrest warrant Monday for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych over the “mass murder” of protesters and appealed for US$35 billion in Western aid to pull the crisis-hit country from the brink of economic collapse.

(AFP)

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