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Newly-elected speaker of parliament Oleksander Turchinov speaks with opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk, left during a parliament session in Kiev February 23, 2014. Turchinov, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and the closest confidante of freed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, was temporarily handed the role of president on Sunday. (Alex Kuzmin/REUTERS)
Newly-elected speaker of parliament Oleksander Turchinov speaks with opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk, left during a parliament session in Kiev February 23, 2014. Turchinov, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and the closest confidante of freed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, was temporarily handed the role of president on Sunday. (Alex Kuzmin/REUTERS)

Ukraine ready to talk to Russia, but Europe a priority, acting leader says Add to ...

Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said on Sunday Ukraine was ready to talk to the leadership of Russia to try to improve relations, but made clear that Kiev’s return to European integration would be a priority.

In an address to the nation, Turchinov said Ukraine’s new leadership after the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych was ready for dialogue with Russia to put their relations on a “new, equal and good-neighbourly footing, that recognises and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice.”

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“Another priority,” he said, “is the return to the path of European integration.”

He also said the next government would have the task of stabilising the economy, which he said was at risk of default.

Turchinov is a long-time alley of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the heroines of the 2004 Orange Revolution, and his appointment was viewed as a boost to her chances of returning to power. She has asked supporters not to put her name forward for the prime minister's job, fuelling speculation that she may be preparing a bid for the presidency.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

  • 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.
  • Yanukovych’s flight into hiding left Putin’s Ukraine policy in tatters, on a day he had hoped eyes would be on the grand finale to the Sochi Olympics. The Kremlin leader spoke on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose foreign minister had brokered a short-lived truce in Kiev on Friday.
  • An aide to ousted president Viktor Yanukovych told AP that he is retaining his presidential duties.
  • Moscow recalled its ambassador to the Ukraine for consultations. "Due to the escalation of the situation in Ukraine and the necessity of analysing the existing situation from all sides, a decision has been made to recall the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine (Mikhail) Zurabov to Moscow for consultations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement late Sunday.
  • Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday that the opposition in Ukraine had “de-facto seized power, is refusing to lay down weapons and continues to rely on violence."
  • French President Francois Hollande said in a statement Sunday that Ukraine’s territorial integrity “must be respected.”
  • In an appearance on the NBC TV program Meet the Press, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice was asked about a scenario in which Russia would send troops to restore a government more friendly to Moscow, or for the country to be carved up. “That would be a grave mistake. It is not in the interests of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or the United States to see the country split. It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate,” Rice said.
  • Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander told CTV's Question Period on Sunday that Canada has the "potential to enact sanctions against anyone who is responsible" for more violence in Ukraine, adding that Russia's military intervention would be a "very dangerous development."

With reports from Associated Press and Globe staff

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