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Russia cries ‘mutiny’ over change in Ukraine

Russian leaders expressed their distrust and dislike of Ukraine’s new government yesterday, saying it came to power through “armed mutiny,” just hours after Ukrainian authorities announced a nationwide manhunt for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych on charges of “mass murder of peaceful civilians.”

Russia questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine’s interim leadership, charging that it used a peace deal brokered by Europe to make a power grab and to suppress dissent in Russian-speaking regions through “terrorist methods.”

The tone was much harsher than any previous Russian response to the events of the past few days. “If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be a government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday.

Ukrainian lawmakers, now largely foes of Yanukovych, were defiant. Asked about Russia’s displeasure, parliament member Yuriy Derevyanko said, “They can take it or leave it. It’s not their business.”

The search for Yanukovych was backed up by warrants authorizing the arrest of the ousted leader and 50 members of his government for their roles in the deaths of 88 Ukrainians killed by riot police officers and in street clashes over the past week, said Arsen Avakov, the interim interior minister.

Ukrainian officials said Yanukovych has used helicopters and ground vehicles to travel from his palatial estate outside Kiev to Kharkiv in the east, and then on to an airport in Donetsk, where border guards stopped two chartered jets from leaving the country. Some suspect that he may have moved on to Ukraine’s Crimea region, which has a strong Russian-speaking majority.

Ukraine’s parliament was rushing ahead to form a caretaker government and appoint a new prime minister. The move is crucial to help the country continue to meet its financial obligations and, most important, to borrow money.

The legislative body has called for a presidential election May 25, and it declared yesterday that candidates can announce themselves and begin their campaigns today.

Protesters in Independence Square in central Kiev began to return home. The capital city was sunny and peaceful, with offices and businesses open again and traffic normal.

Visitors to Yanukovych’s presidential website were greeted with an “error” message. Journalists poring over documents left behind at Yanukovych’s mansion found lists of expenses, including one citing a $2.3 million bill for the decoration of a dining hall and tea room.

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