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Pro-Russian rally in Crimea decries Kiev ‘bandits’

First Published      Last Updated Feb 25 2014 06:13 pm
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Ethnic Russians make up the majority of Crimea's population, and some, including retired navy officers and their families, have Russian citizenship. The peninsula's nearly 2 million people includes 60 percent Russian speakers, as well as 12 percent who are Crimean Tatars, a minority group deported and persecuted in Soviet times, leaving them with little love for Russia. Refat Chubarov, the head of the Tatar community, says the Tatars want new elections to the regional parliament and to remove any monuments to Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.

At the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, lawmakers delayed the formation of a new government until Thursday, reflecting the political and economic challenges the country faces after Yanukovych went into hiding.

Turchinov, the parliament speaker, is now nominally in charge of this strategic country of 46 million whose ailing economy faces a possible default and whose loyalties are sharply torn between Europe and longtime ruler Russia.

The European Union's top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton, urged Ukraine's new government to quickly work out an economic reform program so the West could consider financial aid to keep Ukraine from bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based association of banks and financial companies, warned that Ukraine's finances "are on the verge of collapse." Ukraine is battling to keep its currency, the hryvnia, from collapsing. Its acting finance minister says the country needs $35 billion (25.5 billion euros) to finance government needs this year and next.

After meeting with interim authorities in Kiev, Ashton urged the new government not to exclude members of Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

"It needs to be inclusive," she told reporters.

Protests in Ukraine erupted after Yanukovych in November abruptly reject an agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union and instead sought a bailout loan from Moscow. But they grew into a massive movement demanding an end to corruption and greater human rights.


Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.