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Ally of Ukraine's jailed opposition icon named interim interior minister

Published on Feb 22, 2014 7:54 PM
 
A photo taken on Feb 2, 2011 shows Ukraine's former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko posing in her residence in Kiev during an interview. A close ally of Ukraine's jailed opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko was named interim interior minister on Saturday, Feb 22, 2014,  replacing a man blamed for ordering police to open fire on protesters. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

KIEV (AFP) - A close ally of Ukraine's jailed opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko was named interim interior minister on Saturday, replacing a man blamed for ordering police to open fire on protesters.

Mr Arsen Avakov was elected to the post during an animated Parliament session shortly after Ms Tymoshenko's right-hand man was voted in as Parliament speaker, as the regime of embattled president Viktor Yanukovych appeared close to collapse.

Ukraine's Parliament also voted by an overwhelming margin to immediately release Ms Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who spearheaded the nation's pro-democracy 2004 Orange Revolution.

A motion "to immediately free Tymoshenko based on the decision of the European Court of Human Rights" was backed by 322 deputies of the 331 registered for Saturday's Verkhovna Rada session. Ms Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years on disputed "abuse of power" charges in 2011.