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A statement posted on the Defense Ministry website Saturday, after Yanukovych’s departure, and attributed to the ministry and the military, reaffirmed the military’s commitment to the constitution and expressed sorrow over the deaths in Kiev last week.
"Please be assured that the Armed Forces of Ukraine cannot and will not be involved in any political conflict," the statement said.
In a separate statement, the military chief of staff, Yuriy Ilyin, who was just recently appointed by Yanukovych, said, "As an officer I see no other way than to serve the Ukrainian people honestly and assure that I have not and won’t give any criminal orders."
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It is not yet clear whether Ukrainians in the southern and eastern regions of the country, which host the bulk of the country’s industrial infrastructure as well as the heaviest concentration of pro-Russian sentiment, would resist the change of government in Kiev. In several cities, including Donetsk and Kharkiv, pro-Russian demonstrators took to the streets Sunday, and there have been scattered reports of clashes between pro-Russian Ukrainians and supporters of the protests in Kiev.
Several lawmakers expressed rising alarm over Ukraine’s perilous economic situation. The Russian government in December had come to Yanukovych’s rescue with a $15 billion bailout and an offer of cheaper prices on natural gas.
A $2 billion installment of that aid was canceled as part of a deal reached Friday between Yanukovych and opposition leaders. Western officials have said they hope to offer assistance, but it is unclear how quickly that help might arrive.
Among the reasons Yanukovych turned away from signing political and trade accords with Europe in November was his unwillingness to carry out painful austerity measures and other reforms that had been demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a large assistance package.
On Sunday, the Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, said that there was concern about the political instability in Ukraine and that the fund could only provide assistance in response to a formal request.
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Speaking at the end of a meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Sydney, Lagarde said, "If the Ukrainian authorities were to ask for IMF support, whether it is policy advice, whether it is financial support together with economic reform discussions, we would be ready to do that."
But, she said, "We need to have somebody to talk to because any discussion takes two."
Lagarde added that an economic program to help Ukraine had to be "owned by the authorities, by the people, because at the end of the day it will be the future of the Ukrainian economy."
The IMF has extended help to Ukraine in the past, but has expressed reluctance to do so again because the Ukrainian government repeatedly failed to carry out agreed-upon reforms.
The reassertion of state ownership over the presidential palace Sunday was a highly symbolic action by parliament to show that lawmakers shared the public’s rage against Yanukovych, who appeared briefly on television Saturday and insisted that he was still the duly elected president.
After the residence, which is in a national park, was abandoned by Yanukovych and then opened to the Ukrainian public, visitors reacted with outrage and dismay at the astonishing display of wealth and excess, including separate collections of modern and antique cars and a private zoo.
The vote to reclaim the palace was 323 to 0, with at least 106 lawmakers absent, most of them members of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, which had controlled parliament until its leaders fled Saturday and then were dismissed from their posts in similarly lopsided votes.
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In a series of votes Sunday, the parliament dismissed the foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara; the education minister, Dmytro Tabachnyk, and the health minister, Raisa Bogatyrova.Next Page >
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