Restless In Ukraine: Interim Government Is Only First Step
Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 8:01 pm
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. It took nearly three months for Ukraine's people to overthrow their government and now the opposition is running into problems as it tries to build a replacement with infighting among the various parties. Meantime, the Ukrainian economy is in a shambles. The country is on the verge of default.
Ousted President Viktor Yanukovych remains at large with a warrant out for his arrest and a former senior aide to the ousted president is reported to have been shot and wounded. NPR's Peter Kenyon joins me now from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. And first, Peter, what can you tell us about that shooting?
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, it was a startling report. Everything remains unconfirmed at this point. The aide in question is Andriy Klyuyev, who was the chief of staff to Yanukovych and the spokesman for Mr. Klyuyev says a trusted source tells him that he was shot in the leg yesterday, not fatally, didn't say where this happened, did not say if Yanukovych was anywhere nearby at the time and so we really don't know much more than that.
But it has certainly attracted attention here today.
BLOCK: So a lot of questions there. And in the meantime, Peter, the parliament, we mentioned, in Kiev is struggling to name a new government. What are you hearing from people about the opposition leaders?
KENYON: Well, there's still some hope, but a lot of growing discontent, I have to say. A lot of these figures, after all, are not brand new. They've been in power before and it does look to some like they're simply changing the name plates on the doors and struggling for power positions, perhaps not acting in the people's best interest.
These folks want a clean sweep. They want to see brand new people. That seems unlikely at this urgent phase of things. Some are saying, well, look, they haven't even named the government yet, give them a chance. The first step we'll see is when the new government is named, possibly by Thursday.
BLOCK: And Peter, a symbolic gesture, I gather, there in the Ukrainian capital, I gather that a star was removed today from the very top of the parliament building. How is that being received?
KENYON: Well, this is another area of concern. It was a Soviet star, not a Russian one, as it happens, but it was removed by order of the new parliament and not by any fervent nationalist group. Now, why they chose this moment to do that when they need to appoint a government has a lot of people scratching their heads. Questions are also being asked about some other things the parliament's done, like repealing this weekend a law protecting other languages in the Ukraine, including Russian.
No one's enforcing that now, but it's got people already nervous, a little more anxious and there is a nationalist party. It's called Svoboda. It does have a radical wing. It has been known to use violence. They're not that active, but they do show up everyone once in awhile and more anxiety is exactly what's not needed here about now.
BLOCK: And how is that Ukrainian nationalism feeding the tensions that already exist with ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and with Russia...
KENYON: There is a feeding effect and the signs are worrisome. Although Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow's policy of nonintervention will continue. There have been rising tensions in the pro-Russian east, growing calls for Russia to intervene, nominally to protect their citizens. This is probably why we're hearing so many calls, both inside and outside Ukraine, to maintain a unified country, and the interim president, Alexander Turchinov, today met with his security agencies and they called for a crackdown against any, quote-unquote, separatist activity.
BLOCK: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon talking with us from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Peter, thanks so much.
KENYON: You're welcome, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.