Ukraine’s ex-president accused of mass murder

Yanukovych still evades capture, new leaders say

A tribute has been set up for slain protesters in Kiev. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant was issued for the ousted president.
A tribute has been set up for slain protesters in Kiev. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant was issued for the ousted president.(Louisa Gouliamaki/Getty Images)

KIEV — Ukraine’s acting interior minister said Monday that authorities were in pursuit of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was believed to be in Crimea in the south of the country, and that he would be arrested on charges of mass murder in the killings of dozens of antigovernment protesters last week.

The minister, Arsen Avakov, who was appointed by Parliament on Saturday, wrote on his Facebook page that he was personally involved in the manhunt and had traveled to the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Sunday night hoping to intercept Yanukovych at the airport there, but that the deposed president had not turned up as expected.


He said Yanukovych had fled in an unknown direction, traveling by car with a diminished security detail.

The pursuit of Yanukovych, a man now widely despised even by many of his former supporters, gripped the nation Monday as Parliament continued its efforts to rebuild the government, with hopes of appointing an acting prime minister and having the rest of a provisional government Tuesday.

With former prime minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, freed from prison on Saturday, saying she did not want to be considered for that post, speculation on the premiership focused on her ally, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, who has been a leader of the anti-Yanukovych protests since they began in late November.

Western officials on Monday continued to praise the developments in Ukraine, saying that Parliament had successfully filled a power vacuum and that democratic institutions had functioned successfully.

The Obama administration signaled Monday that it no longer recognizes Yanukovych as Ukraine’s president. However, US officials sought to assure Russia that it does not have to be shut out of a future relationship with a new Ukrainian government.

Yanukovych was widely seen as a puppet of Moscow against Ukraine protesters who demanded stronger ties with the European Union to boost the faltering economy of the onetime Soviet state.


US officials said the International Monetary Fund is considering an aid package as high as $15 billion to help stabilize a new, transitional government in Kiev, the Associated Press reported.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States will provide additional aid to complement the IMF, aimed at fostering Ukrainian economic stability, but it was not immediately clear how much money it would provide.

Russia on Monday stepped up its criticism after recalling its ambassador from Kiev, the capital, a day before.

“Today, I see no legitimate Ukrainian partners for dialogue,” the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said in Sochi, Russia, a day after the close of the Winter Olympics, according to the Interfax news service. “If people crossing Kiev in black masks with Kalashnikov rifles are considered a government, it will be difficult for us to work with such a government.”

But in Kiev, the security situation seemed to improve Monday, with regular law enforcement forces and some antigovernment fighters sharing responsibility for guarding government buildings and directing traffic.

A sense of workaday calm seemed to return to the city, even as barricades still surrounded the main protest sites.

As Yanukovych’s public persona shifted from feared strongman to detested fugitive, any last vestiges of support for him seemed to vanish even in the pro-Russia eastern and southern parts of the country, which had historically provided his base of political support.

Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, which had supported him until lawmakers began defecting over last week’s mass killings in Kiev, issued a statement Sunday saying the country had been deceived, robbed and betrayed.


Yanukovych and his family were known to have accumulated vast wealth during his time in office, and he was believed to have access to at least one yacht that might ferry him out of Ukraine.

On Facebook, Avakov said that after abandoning his residence near the capital, Yanukovych had flown by helicopter to Karkiv in eastern Ukraine, where he prepared a video statement on Saturday declaring that he remained president. Then, he went to the airport in Donetsk, where he and several companions sought to flee the country on Falcon airplanes.

Border police at the airport prevented the planes from flying, Avakov said, and Yanukovych then departed in a motorcade for the south.