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Ukraine's Yanukovych On Run From Mass Murder Charge

In Kiev's Independence Square, flowers have been left in memory of protesters killed there in recent days.
Jeff J Mitchell
Getty Images
In Kiev's Independence Square, flowers have been left in memory of protesters killed there in recent days.

Viktor Yanukovych, ousted Saturday from his post as president of Ukraine, is now wanted by authorities in his country on charges of mass murder, the acting interior minister says.

Authorities want Yanukovych and some of his aides to be tried for the deaths of scores of protesters in Kiev last week, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov writes on his Facebook page.

First, though, officials have to find the 63-year-old Yanukovych — who has accused opponents of staging an illegal coup. He's missing. As Reuters reports:

"According to Avakov's account of events, Yanukovych, after hearing he had been officially replaced in his presidential duties, headed for the Belbek military airport in Crimea. He then went in another direction after learning that the new heads of the interior ministry and state security service were waiting for him there.

"At a private residence in the Balaclava region, he gathered his security guards together and gave them a choice either to stay with him or leave, relinquishing protection from state-appointed bodyguards, Avakov said.

"Some left him, taking with them official state-registered weapons to hand over to the authorities in Crimea."

Then Yanukovych disappeared again.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due in Kiev today. She'll be talking with officials about steps — and money — that are needed to shore up Ukraine's economy. The BBC writes that "the new interim Finance Minister, Yuriy Kolobov, has said Ukraine needs around $35 billion in urgent foreign aid and asked for an international donors' conference to be held."

In Kiev's Independence Square, where the demonstrations and violence were centered, some protesters remain camped out. Flowers and other memorials are piling up in places to honor the dozens of people killed there.

As we've reported previously, the anti-Yanukovych protests were sparked in part by the president's rejection of a pending trade treaty with the European Union and his embrace of more aid from Russia. Protesters were also drawn into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption.

On Morning Edition Monday, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported from the estate that Yanukovych had built for himself. Its opulence has disgusted many Ukrainians.

Also on Morning Edition, Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center spoke about why he hopes Russia has hit "a pause button" and will not try to intervene in Ukraine to support Yanukoyvch or anyone else with ties to Moscow.

"You watch more than you act" is the right approach for Russia at this time, Trenin said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.