Oleksandr Turchynov: Ukraine parliament speaker is new acting president.

Parliament Speaker Is Ukraine’s New Acting President

Parliament Speaker Is Ukraine’s New Acting President

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Feb. 23 2014 12:01 PM

Parliament Speaker Is Ukraine’s New Acting President

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Oleksandr Turchynov, Parliament speaker and newly appointed interim president of Ukraine, attends a session at the parliament in Kiev on Sunday.

Photo by Sergei Supinksy/AFP/Getty Images

The Ukrainian parliament continued to take decisive steps to strip ousted President Viktor Yanukovych of any remaining authority and to consolidate its leadership until the May 25 presidential elections. The parliament issued a decree naming its speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, as the country’s interim president. Turchynov is a close ally of former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was released from prison Saturday. Some of Tymoshenko’s supporters had been pushing for her to become interim prime minister, but she made it clear she isn’t interested in the position. "I am grateful for the respect this shows, but I ask not to be considered for this post," she wrote on her website, notes the Guardian.

Even without an official position, it is clear Tymoshenko will play a key role in coming months. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, top European Union official Štefan Füle, and Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut all spoke with Tymoshenko on Sunday, reports the New York Times. Still, a vocal minority of protesters are skeptical of all political leaders and are calling on Tymoshenko to step aside and give way to a new generation of leaders.

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As the parliament tries to consolidate power, there is increasing concern that some regions of Ukraine may try to break away as Yanukovych’s whereabouts remain unknown. A “top presidential aide” told the Associated Press that Yanukovych keeps on insisting the parliament’s decisions in recent days are illegal and he will continue to perform his presidential duties. “The next days will show whether he can mobilize enough followers in the country's east and south to mount a challenge,” writes the BBC’s David Stern. Meanwhile, parliament also voted to seize Yanukovych’s estate after pictures of the luxurious grounds shocked Ukrainians and the world, reports Reuters.

Following her release after 30 months behind bars, Tymoshenko called on opposition supporters to continue protesting, and thousands remain in Kiev’s Independence Square, where things were mostly calm Sunday morning. Some described the mood as “like a hangover after a wild party,” notes USA Today. Now opposition supporters are focusing on justice as the health ministry confirmed 88 people, mostly protesters, are known to have been killed since Feb. 18, according to the BBC.

For now, lawmakers seem determined to dismantle Yanukovych’s administration by dismissing top officials, including his foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara, who was seen as a key player in the ousted president’s move toward Moscow and away from Brussels. Yanukovych’s education minister, who was accused of implementing a pro-Russia vision of history in the country's classrooms, was also ousted, details the Guardian.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.