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Ukraine's Interim PM Faces Daunting Economic Hurdles

  • VOA News

Ukraine opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, named to the post of interim prime minister, gestures on the stage during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 26, 2014.
Ukraine opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, named Wednesday to the post of interim prime minister, is a former foreign minister and a strong ally of pro-Western icon Yulia Tymoshenko.

One of three visible opposition leaders during the past three months of political crisis, Yatsenyuk -- an economist and lawyer -- warned Wednesday that the new government is prepared to take "extremely unpopular steps" to stabilize an economy that is teetering near bankruptcy.

"We are on the brink of a disaster and this is the government of political suiciders. So welcome to hell," he told British radio.

Born to a family of academics in the western city of Chernivtsi, the 39-year-old Yatsenyuk served the last decade as head of the National Bank of Ukraine. He was elected by lawmakers in 2007 to chair the parliament under the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, but resigned less than a year later as political infighting gripped the capital.

Under duress last month, with opposition protests raging in Kyiv, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych sought to recruit Yatsenyuk -- the leader of the Fatherland Party. The embattled president offered him the post of prime minister, but Yatsenyuk refused, saying the people of Ukraine should be deciding the future of the country, and not government officials.

Analysts say the interim government may well be reconfigured after elections set for May 25, leaving Yatsenyuk's political future unclear.