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Former Ukraine leader wanted for murder

Viktor Yanukovich was ousted after protests in which demonstrators were shot by police snipers.

FILE: Fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Picture: AFP.

KIEV - Fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, ousted after bloody street protests in which demonstrators were shot by police snipers, is wanted for mass murder, authorities announced on Monday.

Yanukovich, who vanished on Saturday, is still at large.

"An official case for the mass murder of peaceful citizens has been opened," acting interior minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook profile. "Yanukovich and other people responsible for this have been declared wanted," he said.

Yanukovich had left a private residence in Balaclava, in the Russian-speaking Crimea region, for an unknown destination in a car with one of his aides, Avakov said.

On Independence Square in central Kiev, cradle of the uprising, barricades of old furniture and car tyres remained in place, with smoke rising from camp fires among tents occupied by diehards vowing to stay until elections in May.

The mood among the few hundred on the square was a mixture of fatigue, sorrow for the 82 people killed last week, and a sense of victory after three months of protests. A large video screen by the side of the stage was showing the faces of the dead, one after another, on a loop.

Russia on Sunday recalled its ambassador in Ukraine for consultations on the deteriorating situation in Kiev.

A day after Yanukovich fled, parliament named its new speaker, Turchinov, as interim head of state. An ally of the ousted leader's rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, he aims to swear in a government by Tuesday that can run things until a presidential election on 25 May.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to Ukraine on Monday, where she is expected to discuss measures to shore up the ailing economy, which the finance ministry said required $35 billion in foreign aid over the next two years, with the first tranche needed within two weeks.