Interim government says Viktor Yanukovych, who fled over weekend, wanted for deaths of opposition protesters
President Viktor F. Yanukovych denounced a “coup” on TV. (Presidential Press Service, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)Ukraine’s ousted President Vicktor Yanukovich, who fled over the weekend as anti-government forces stormed parliament and the presidential residence, is now wanted under an arrested warrant issued by the interim government that has taken control in Kiev.
Last spotted in the Crimean peninsula, his exact whereabout remain unknown.
As the Associated Press reports Monday:
Ukraine’s acting interior minister, Arsen Avakhov, said on his official Facebook page Monday that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Yanukovych and several other officials for the “mass killing of civilians.” At least 82 people, primarily protesters, were killed in clashes in Kiev last week.
Avakhov says Yanukovych arrived in Crimea on Sunday, relinquished his official security detail and then drove off to an unknown location, turning off all forms of communication. “Yanukovych has disappeared,” he said.
Earlier, after signing an agreement Friday with the opposition to end a conflict that had turned deadly, Yanukovych had fled the capital of Kiev for eastern Ukraine. Avakhov said he tried to fly out of Donetsk but was stopped, then went to Crimea.
The pace of developments was swift over the weekend and a flurry of statements from Ukrainian officials mixed with sharp words containing warnings and veiled threats from diplomats and high-level figures in Russia, the US, and Europe reveal the situation remains in flux and potentially volatile.
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Sunday, appearing on a news program, told the Russian government that intervening militarily would be a “grave mistake.”
Later, a source with the Russian Foreign Ministry pushed back against the U.S. warning, criticized the Obama administration and questioned the wisdom of Rice when it came to foreign interventions. As the Russian Interfax news agency reported, the unnamed source said:
We have seen the expert evaluations of Susan Rice, which are based on repeated US military interventions in multiple places around the world, especially where the US administration is of the opinion that the norms of Western democracy are in danger or ruling regimes begin too clearly ‘to get out hand’.
We consider that the current presidential adviser will give this kind of advice about the error of using force to the US leadership in the event of a decision about a new intervention.
On Monday, following news that Yanukovich was now “wanted” by the reconstituted government in Kiev, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called into question the legitimacy of the new parliament and those declaring themselves representatives of the Ukrainian people.
“We do not understand what is going on there,” said Medvedev in a statement. “There is a real threat to our interests and to the lives of our citizens. There are big doubts about the legitimacy of a whole series of organs of power that are now functioning there.”
“There is no-one to deal with there [in Ukraine], masked and armed people are no partners for dialogue,” he continued, referring to members of the far-right, nationalist forces within the opposition movement, which critics have described as having quasi-fascist elements.
Twitter continues to filter live developments on the situation and reactions from observers: