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Ukraine's acting leader still seeking consensus on interim government

UkraineElectionsRussiaPoliticsViktor YanukovichMoscow (Russia)European Union

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 try fugitive ex-President Viktor Yanukovich on charges of 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 Ukraine's stability is threatened as politicians jockey for position before the May 25 presidential election.

A multiparty transitional leadership had been expected to be announced Tuesday. But acting President Oleksandr 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.

"It needs to be inclusive," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said of the Cabinet in comments to reporters after two days of talks in Kiev.

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 advisors 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 trade with Russian companies and their products, 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.

"We have confirmed our principled position to not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs and expect all [foreign powers] to follow a similar logic," Lavrov said.

Little was immediately clear about the circumstances in which Yanukovich's former chief of staff, Andriy Klyuyev, was wounded 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.

Political analysts worry that an atmosphere of revenge is developing as opposition forces that suffered under Yanukovich's corrupt, repressive government hunt those responsible for the deadly culmination of a three-month confrontation over whether to stay economically aligned with Moscow or turn toward the EU.

"With the post-Soviet statehood of Ukraine all but collapsed, people driven by vengeance don't want to wait for the state to re-emerge from the ruins to bring the former officials to justice," said Vadim Karasyov, head of the Institute of Global Strategies in Kiev. "Summary trials are taking place in the street, and the situation has the potential to aggravate until a compromise is found between the new authorities and the people."

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. Besides Yanukovich, the appeal named former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and former Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko.

Tuesday saw the start of campaigning for the presidential election. Opposition leader and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and the pro-Russian governor of the eastern Ukrainian industrial region of Kharkiv, Mikhail Dobkin, announced that they would run. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovich's longtime rival who was released from prison Saturday, is also known to be contemplating a run.

sergei.loiko@latimes.com

carol.williams@latimes.com

Loiko reported from Kiev and Williams from Moscow.

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