(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Ukraine is trying to get its bearings just a week after violent street demonstrations nearly tore the country apart. The former Soviet republic took a major step toward stability Thursday when its parliament appointed pro-West opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk as interim prime minister. Yatsenyuk held out an olive branch, stressing his government wants a partnership with Moscow.
However, Yatsenyuk also stressed that Ukraine will sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, the very issue that touched off street demonstrations last November when then-President Viktor Yanukovych reneged on a deal with Europe to cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Part of Yanukovych's rationale was to get a quick infusion of cash from Moscow to prop up Ukraine's faltering economy. However, with Yanukovych on the lam after being booted from office, Yatsenyuk accused the ex-leader of pilfering from the state treasury with as much as $70 billion sent to off-shore accounts.
The new prime minister acknowledged tough decisions were inevitable but some of the pain may be eased with promises of financial assistance from the U.S., the International Monetary Fund and European Union.
As for Yanukovych, who disappeared from Kiev last Friday, he issued a public statement Thursday declaring himself Ukraine's "lawful leader." Yanukovych, who is also trying to elude a warrant charging him with mass murder, said he has turned to Russia "to ensure my personal security from the actions of extremists."
The ousted president is scheduled to hold a news conference on Friday.
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