• Ukraine leaders to unveil new cabinet

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    KIEV: Ukraine’s pro-Western interim leaders were set to unveil their new cabinet on Wednesday after disbanding the feared riot police as they sought to build confidence in the splintered and economically ravaged ex-Soviet nation.

    The new government will be symbolically revealed on Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of three months of protests that culminated in carnage last week that triggered the weekend ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych.

    “At 7 p.m. [5 p.m. in Manila] we will take to the stage to present the new government to the square,” Valeriy Patskan, a lawmaker from the party of former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, said in a statement on the UDAR (Punch) party’s website.

    The temporary authorities in Kiev are grappling with the dual threats of separatism and a looming debt default as they try to piece the former Soviet nation back together following the months of turmoil.

    In an apparent bid to begin healing wounds in the divided nation, acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said he had dissolved an elite riot police unit known as the Berkut, despised by many for its heavy crackdown on the anti-government protesters.

    The anti-government protests started in November over Yanukovych’s decision to ditch an historic European Union trade deal in favor of closer ties with old master Russia, and ended in a week of Kiev carnage that claimed nearly 100 lives.

    Yanukovych and his tight clique of security chiefs and administration insiders are widely believed to have since gone into hiding in the Russian-speaking southern peninsula of Crimea that is now threatening to secede from Ukraine.

    The interim leaders’ head–aches are compounded by Moscow’s decision to freeze payments on a massive bailout package that Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to Yanukovych as his reward for rejecting closer EU ties.

    The Ukrainian government faces foreign debt payments of $13 billion this year and has less than $18 billion in its fast depleting coffers—a grim equation that has forced it to seek as much as $35 billion from Western states.

    Both the United States and Britain have publically backed the idea of putting together an economic rescue for Ukraine that would be overseen by the International Monetary Fund.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Secretary William Hague also rejected Russia’s claim on Tuesday that Ukraine was being forced to make a choice between the East and West.

    “This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East,” Kerry said after hosting Hague in Washington.

    AFP

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