Opposition party UDAR's leader Vitali Klitschko confirmed today that he will run for president in Ukraine's early elections in May. Klitschko, a central figure in anti-government demonstrations over the past few months (and the WBC Emeritus Heavyweight Champion of the world) could replace ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych, who is currently on the run and facing mass murder charges.
#BREAKING Klitschko says he will run for Ukraine presidency— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) February 25, 2014
Since Yanukovych fled his palace over the weekend, an interim government has taken charge in Kiev, and moved quickly to distance itself from the old regime. Olexander Turchynov is acting as the interim president, and a unity government is set to be decided on this Thursday. Former Prime Minister and Fatherland opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was recently freed from prison, said she won't run to be the country's prime minister (her old job), but that she will also seek the presidency.
As a new government takes form, it will have to deal with several pressing issues, including keeping the country from splitting into pro- and anti-Yanukovych camps. Outside of Kiev, in Crimea and other pro-Russia regions in the East, protests are still ongoing and officials are starting to fear talk of secession.
Turchynov called this type of social splintering is a "serious threat." In addition to internal unrest, pressure from Russia has been mounting. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine's interim government conducted an "armed mutiny." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took a softer tone, saying he hopes Ukraine will be "part of the European family in every sense of the word," and adding that Russia will not intervene in Ukrainian affairs. The comment, however, could simply refer to Russia's decision not to follow through $15 billion bailout payment it promised to the country. Without that money, Ukraine could face bankruptcy, though the International Monetary Fund (backed by the U.S. and EU) may now step in to help.
Still, there's reason to hope for the future of Ukraine. The interim government has said it needs $35 billion in aid this year, and the EU and U.S. promised to provide financial support for the country. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is currently in Ukraine, discussing a possible trade deal between the nations — an attempt to resuscitate a previous agreement that Yanukovych rejected, sparking the protesters in the first place.
It seems now the activists could get what they wanted all along, a historic trade deal that would link Ukraine to the EU and boost the former Soviet satellite's economy.
The U.S. is also offering political support to the interim government by rejecting Yanukovych's authority and recognizing the new government as the authority in Kiev.
There's also the matter of what to do with Yanukovych once he's been tracked down. Ukraine's parliament is pushing for Yanukovych to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC), rather than their country's own justice system; a demand hampered by the fact that Ukraine is not a signatory to the ICC convention.
And a glimmer of good spirits can be seen via EuroMaidan official Twitter handle. Between updates on casualties and other developing events in Independence Square, the movement's feed offered a joke: