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Ukraine wants Yanukovich to face ICC

A resolution linked Yanukovich to violence against protesters in which more than 100 people were killed.

FILE:A resolution linked Yanukovich to police violence against protesters, killing more than 100 people. Picture: AFP.

KIEV - Ukraine's parliament voted on Tuesday to send fugitive President Viktor Yanukovich to the International Criminal Court, while his acting successor expressed concern about "signs of separatism" in Russian-speaking Crimea.

A resolution, overwhelmingly supported by parliament, linked Yanukovich, who was ousted by the legislature on Saturday and is now on the run, to police violence against protesters which it said had led to the deaths of more than 100 citizens of Ukraine and other states.

The Hague-based court said it would need a request from the government of Ukraine giving it jurisdiction over the deaths.

With an early presidential election set for 25 May, one of Ukraine's most prominent opposition figures, retired world boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, confirmed he would run.

Yanukovich was indicted by the new authorities for "mass murder" on Monday over the shooting of demonstrators in Kiev and is now on the wanted list, having last been seen at Balaclava in Crimea, near Russia's Sevastopol naval base.

The resolution said former interior minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and former prosecutor-general Viktor Pshonka, who are also being sought by the authorities, should also be sent for trial at the ICC.

"Parliament asks the International Criminal Court to hold Viktor Yanukovich and other high-level people criminally responsible for issuing and carrying out openly criminal orders", the resolution said.

Ukraine never signed the treaty that created the ICC, which since its founding in 2002 has handled only cases from Africa. However, the court could intervene if Ukraine asked it to.

The tribunal has jurisdiction over only serious international crimes, and then only if local authorities are unable or unwilling to deal with those cases themselves. Ukraine would not have any say over who might be investigated.

Acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said Yanukovich was wanted for the "mass murder of peaceful citizens".

Yanukovich left Kiev by helicopter on Friday, heading for his power base in the east, where he was prevented from flying out of the country and then diverted south to Crimea.

FEARS OF SPLIT

Yanukovich's fall has revived fears that the former Soviet state of 46 million might split along the faultline that divides its pro-Western and pro-Russian regions.

Acting president Oleksander Turchinov and security chiefs expressed concern at a meeting on Tuesday about threats to the country's unity in mainly Russian-speaking Crimea.

In a fresh warning to the European Union and United States not to try to shape Ukraine's future, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the country must not be forced to choose between Russia and the West.

Both Russia and the West, while competing for influence over Ukraine under its new rulers, have said publicly that they do not want a split to happen.

Moscow has said it will not deal with those who led an "armed mutiny" against Yanukovich, who was backed by Russia, and said it fears for the lives of its citizens, many of whom live in Crimea or the industrial cities of the east that helped vote Yanukovich into office in the 2010 presidential election.

Unrest erupted in Ukraine after Yanukovich abandoned a proposed trade pact with the EU in November and turned instead towards Moscow, which offered loans and cheaper gas supplies.

The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Russia should behave like a good neighbour and let Ukraine move forward in the way it chooses after three months of conflict.

Ashton said the EU understood the need for strong links between Kiev and Moscow, but that a message should be sent about Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Voicing "strong support" for Ukraine's new leaders at a news conference, Ashton urged them to form an "inclusive" government and focus on getting the country through short-term problems.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

The finance ministry in Kiev has said the country needs $35 billion in foreign help over the next two years and that the money needs to start coming in the next week or two.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the European parliament he was committed to supporting Ukraine.

EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said bridging aid of €1 billion might be available, Poland's PAP news agency said.

Ukraine's parliament put off plans to vote on the formation of a national unity government until Thursday to allow consultations to continue.