KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian protesters in Kiev Wednesday backed Arseniy Yatsenyuk to head an interim Cabinet and help avert a default after the nation’s bloodiest events since World War II as the United States signaled a $1 billion rescue is in the works.

Lawmakers are set to approve Yatsenyuk’s candidacy Thursday before a parliamentary ballot in four months, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said Wednesday in front of the thousands gathered on Independence Square, the site of a three-month uprising that culminated in last week’s overthrow of former leader Viktor Yanukovych.

“Ukraine is on the brink of bankruptcy and needs to be saved from collapse –Yatsenyuk has a strong economic background,” Ariel Cohen, senior fellow at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, said by phone. “Ukraine faces difficult reforms but without them there won’t be a successful future.”

With Yanukovych on the run and facing murder charges, Yatsenyuk, 39, must seal a $35 billion financial lifeline as investors pull money out of Ukraine. While the U.S. and the European Union have pledged aid, Russia has questioned the new administration’s legitimacy and halted a $15 billion bailout.

The U.S. is planning a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine and is also considering direct aid to the country, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at a roundtable discussion today.

Ukraine’s currency weakened 4.4 percent to 10.15 per dollar at 8:53 p.m. in Kiev, extending this year’s slump to 18.4 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The central bank imposed capital controls this month to stem its decline.


Yatsenyuk, head of Yulia Tymoshenko’s opposition party in parliament, may be at the forefront of aid negotiations as the country prepares for presidential elections May 25. Other candidates to get backing from the protest camp included Oleksandr Shlapak for the role of finance minister.

The premier nominee has garnered support from the Obama’s administration, which had approached him before Wednesday’s announcement. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew spoke with Yatsenyuk Feb. 23 and told him there’s broad international support for a Ukrainian bailout, according to a Treasury official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Yatsenyuk’s appointment means allies of Tymoshenko, who blamed her seven-year jail term for abuse of office on Orange Revolution adversary Yanukovych, are set to hold the positions of acting leader, premier and central bank chief.

Events in Kiev are rattling parts of Ukraine’s Russian- speaking east and south. In the city of Simferopol in Crimea, hundreds of pro-Russian protesters faced off today against thousands of Ukrainian Tatars chanting: “Crimea isn’t Russia!”

The head of Crimea’s regional parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, denied speculation that lawmakers would vote on splitting away from Ukraine and joining Russia, calling the reports a provocation to discredit the legislature.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin ordered massive exercises Wednesday in western Russia. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a televised statement that the exercise is intended to “checks the troops’ readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security.”

He said it was not related to developments in Ukraine.

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