KIEV — Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said on Sunday Ukraine would try to improve relations with Russia but made clear that Kiev's return to European integration would be the priority.
In an address to the nation, Turchinov spelled out the enormity of the task facing Ukraine's new leadership following the fall of Viktor Yanukovich, including stabilizing an economy which he said was close to default and "heading into the abyss."
"We recognize the importance of relations with the Russian Federation and are ready for dialogue with the Russian leadership in order to build relations with this country on a new, truly equitable and good-neighborly basis," he said.
But he added: "Another priority is the return to the path of European integration ... We must return to the family of European nations."
Turchinov, the parliamentary speaker, was handed the president's duties temporarily in a vote in the chamber earlier on Sunday.
He portrayed the economy as in dire straits and said economic recovery was a key task.
"Against the background of global economic recovery, the Ukrainian economy is heading into the abyss and is in a pre-default state," he said.
"The task of the new government is to stop the country's slide into the abyss, to stabilize the exchange rate, guarantee the timely payment of salaries, pensions and stipends, and to regain the confidence of investors, promote the development of enterprises and the creation of new jobs."
YURI MAXIMOV / EPA
Newly elected Speaker of Parliament Oleksandr Turchynov speaks during a session of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, 23 February 2014. Ukraine's parliament voted to appoint its speaker Oleksandr Turchynov as interim president and he will temporarily take over the duties of Viktor Yanukovych, whose whereabouts remained unknown.
First published February 23 2014, 12:19 PM