Ukraine: Yanukovych is no longer leading country, says White House

The Obama administration has said ousted president's actions have 'undermined his legitimacy as leader'

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The Independent Online

The US has signalled it no longer recognises Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine's president, as the country’s interim president Olexander Turchynov prepares to form a unity government.

The Obama administration has not endorsed the new leader Mr Turchynov but said: “Mr Yanukovych is no longer actively leading the country,” after the ousted president fled Kiev. An arrest warrant has been issued for Mr Yanukovych, but his whereabouts remain unknown.

A criminal case has been opened against him and other government officials over “mass murder of peaceful citizens” following the violent clashes in Kiev’s Independence Square. 

British investigators are working in Ukraine to establish who is responsible for the deadly violence that left 82 dead, according to the BBC.

The White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday that while Mr Yanukovych “was a democratically elected leader, his actions have undermined his legitimacy, and he is not actively leading the country at present”.

Ukraine has started a campaign for snap presidential elections on 25 May. The Ukrainian Central Election Commission posted an election calendar online early today, which gives candidates until 4 April to register.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Secretary William Hague will join US counterpart John Kerry today for talks on emergency support for Ukraine as Moscow questioned the legitimacy of the country's interim leaders.

Mr Hague has warned that Ukraine faces imminent economic collapse without support from the international community and Washington has said it stands ready to plough in cash with other partners to stabilise the nation.

During his visit to Washington, Mr Hague will discuss the country's financial plight with the International Monetary Fund.

“Ukraine's financial situation is very serious and without outside assistance may not be sustainable,” he told MPs yesterday. “ An economic crisis in Ukraine would be a grave threat to the country's stability and have damaging wider consequences.”

While support could be provided quickly once it was requested by a new government in Kiev, Mr Hague said it would require a commitment to reform.

“It requires a stable and legitimate government to be in place and a commitment to the reforms necessary to produce economic stability. International financial support cannot be provided without conditions and clarity that it will be put to proper use,” he said.

America has said it is prepared to provide additional aid to complement a loan from the IMF, as further promised loans from Russia appear increasingly unlikely.

Officials said any US assistance would seek to help Ukraine implement political reforms, in part though investing more in health and education.

Additional reporting by Associated Press