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Ukraine Issues Arrest Warrant for Yanukovych

Ukraine has issued an arrest warrant for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, accusing him and other officials of mass murder of protesters.

Acting interior minister Arsen Avakhov announced the warrant in a Facebook statement Monday. He said Mr. Yanukovych was last seen in the pro-Russian Crimea region of Ukraine, but the ousted leader's exact whereabouts are not clear.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton travels Monday to Ukraine where she is due to meet with new interim leaders who want their country to forge closer ties with the EU.

Ashton's office says her trip to Kyiv will include discussing ways the EU can help the political and economic stabilization of Ukraine.

There is split support in the country between those who want Ukraine to favor relations with Europe and those who want closer ties with Russia. Ousted president Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the EU in November, setting off protests that led to him being kicked out of office.

Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov became Ukraine's interim president Sunday. He highlighted the demonstrations in Kyiv's Independence Square and stressed the plan to embrace the EU in an address Sunday night.

"Our priority is returning to the path of European integration where the fight for Maidan began. We have to return to a family of European countries and to understand the importance of relations with the Russian Federation and be ready to build relations on new and fair partnership of good neighborly relations."

He has promised a new government by Tuesday, and lawmakers have called for new elections on May 25.

Also Monday, the acting finance minister Yuri Kolobov said Ukraine will need $35 billion in foreign aid to cover its bills during the next two years. He called for an international donor conference and appealed for urgent aid, saying some of the money needs to come within two weeks.

Jonathan Adelman, a Russian expert at the University of Denver's Korbel School of International Studies, told VOA that it would be logical for the country to split, but that is not likely because both sides are convinced they can dominate the government.

"Those in eastern Ukraine are convinced that with the backing of Russia they can hold their position and dominate the whole country, which they did under Yanukovych. The people in west Ukraine, of course, were looking at the 2004 orange revolution because they were heavily influenced by the Poles and Lithuanians and by more western Europeans, and they're convinced that with Western help they can dominate it. So I think the probability of a split is very small; even though it would be very logical, very few people seem to want it."

Russia is a strong backer of the ousted president, and on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Kyiv for consultations on what it says is the "deteriorating situation in Ukraine." A Russian Foreign Ministry statement cited a need for "a comprehensive analysis" of developments in Kyiv.

The United States and Britain have warned Russia not to send forces into Ukraine. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Russian military intervention would be a "grave mistake."

Mr. Yanukovych fled Kyiv on Saturday for his support base in eastern Ukraine.

Opposition party leader Vitali Klitschko said Sunday the ousted leader should take full responsibility for the chaos in Kyiv that has resulted in the deaths of about 100 anti-government protesters in the past two weeks.

Mr. Yanukovych's party issued a statement blaming him for the surge of deadly violence that wracked the capital in recent weeks.

Ukrainian protesters took control of Mr. Yanukovych's offices in Kyiv on Saturday. Others let themselves onto the grounds of the president's lavish but secret estate outside Kyiv, which includes a private zoo, and toured his house. Some say they are stunned that one person could have so much while others in Ukraine have nothing.

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