KIEV, Ukraine – Hoping to reach a consensus that would heal some of Ukraine’s wounds, the country’s acting president on Tuesday delayed the seating of an interim government for at least two days, even as opposition colleagues appealed to the Hague criminal tribunal to put fugitive ex-President Viktor Yanukovich on trial for crimes against humanity.
Reports of mounting discord among ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and gunshot wounds suffered by a top aide to Yanukovich further heightened a sense that threats to Ukraine’s stability abound as politicians jockey ahead of a May 25 presidential election.
A multiparty transitional leadership had been expected to be announced Tuesday. But acting President Olexander Turchynov told lawmakers that it would take until at least Thursday to get consensus on a Cabinet that would have the trust of the entire nation.
Visiting diplomats of the European Union urged those steering Ukraine through its current power vacuum to include deputies of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, which has been decimated by defections to the opposition and lawmakers retreating to home territory for fear of retribution at the hands of their Western-leaning adversaries.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin assembled his national security team for a Kremlin caucus on the turmoil in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that Moscow has dominated for centuries. Russia-24 television showed the top advisers gathering but gave no details about their deliberations.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later said during a Moscow news conference that Russia would refrain from interfering in Ukraine’s domestic crisis and expected other countries to do likewise.
Ukraine’s industries and economy are dependent on components and trade with Russian companies, and Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet is based in the port of Sevastopol, now part of Ukraine. Most of the eastern half of Ukraine had voted for Yanukovich and supported his decision late last year to continue strengthening ties with Russia rather than entering into an EU association agreement.
Though Russian officials have made disparaging remarks about those now running Ukraine’s government, Putin has said little about how he expects the power struggle and fight over Ukraine’s future to play out.
Lavrov seemed to be conveying a Kremlin message that it was taking a hands-off approach while watching to see what leadership emerges from talks underway in Kiev.
Little was immediately clear about the circumstances in which Yanukovich’s former chief of staff, Andriy Klyuyev, was wounded on Monday. Klyuyev’s spokesman, Artem Petrenko, said Klyuyev had resigned his post with Yanukovich and was driving to Kiev when he was shot.
“He was not hiding but on the contrary he was returning to Kiev because he is innocent of the crimes attributed now to Yanukovich and other state officials,” Petrenko said.
The parliament passed a measure Tuesday seeking trial by the International Criminal Court of those suspected of ordering the use of force against demonstrators, the UNIAN news agency reported. At least 82 died last week when police and security forces used clubs, stun guns, tear gas and snipers against protesters.