Once loyal Ukrainian security services now scouring the country for ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, wanted on charges of mass murder

Fugitive former president’s opulent lifestyle laid bare as protesters storm his country estate

in Kiev

Viktor Yanukovych, the ruler whose attempt to put down a protest movement with brutal force started his own downfall, is now a fugitive with a warrant issued against him for mass murder.

The former president is on the run with the few in his cohort he can still trust, his hopes of clinging to power seemingly disappearing with each new twist in the drama which has been unfolding in the turmoil of Ukraine.

The whereabouts of the man who just four days ago was bargaining with European Union ministers remains unconfirmed. The last sighting of Mr Yanukovych was said to be yesterday evening in the south of the country, at Balaclava, Crimea's historic battleground which is now a luxury yachting resort, and where one of his sons owns a sailing club.

He was seen in a convoy of three cars accompanied by, among others, one of his closest aides, Andriy Klyuev.

Mr Yanukovych had reportedly arrived there from the city of Donetsk, with arms and cash. Another report had him returning east, to the land from where he had sprung, the coal mining region of Donbas, with its strong pro-Russian sympathies, protected by armed supporters and sympathetic members of the Orthodox priesthood. The country's security service, no longer loyal to Mr Yanukovych, was said to be tracking telephone calls in the area.

These accounts are not from neutral sources. They had come from Arsen Avakov, the new interior minister, and Oleksandr Bryginets, both members of the Fatherland Party, whose leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, the deposed President's implacable adversary, has just been freed from prison, where she was serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of the abuse of her office as prime minister.

But support for Mr Yanukovych has been melting away in the capital even among his own political group, the Party of the Regions. A large number of MPs defected and voted for a Parliamentary motion to remove him from office the day after he disappeared from the capital.

The former President was accused of being personally responsible for the order to open fire on protesters during the attempted storming of the opposition camp at the capital's Independence Square, the Maidan, last Thursday.

 

There has also been deep anger at what was revealed at Mezhyhirya, his country estate in the suburbs of Kiev from where he disappeared. Thousands who had visited the 140 hectare estate have been stunned by its opulence - a private zoo, yacht harbour, car and motorbike collections, a full-scale model galleon - as his people struggled with a falling standard of living brought about by an economic downturn which had accompanied political instability.

Mr Avakov had stated on his Facebook page: "An official case for the mass murder of peaceful citizens has been opened. Yanukovych and other people responsible for this have been declared wanted."

At the Maidan, now covered more than ever with flowers and candles in the memory of more than 80 killed, the cry was for justice and retribution. "My grandson... Mykhaylo, he is just 19 year old, is lying in hospital, shot in the stomach. How can I forgive that man? Tell me," demanded Sofija Yevtushenko. "He must be put on trial; answer to the people."

Soon afterwards, Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, arrived at the square to lay her own floral bouquet. The visit was supposedly to encourage dialogue between the two sides, but it came across as welcome international support for the victorious opposition. But Mr Yanukovych continues to have support, in the east and the south. Russia, the country these people look to for protection, yesterday withdrew its ambassador from Ukraine. Dmitri Medvedev charged that the opposition administration, which had replaced the government, was illegitimate. The Russian prime minister said: "If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks roaming Kiev to be the government, it will be hard for us to work with that government."

People leave flowers and mourn near a makeshift memorial in homage to anti-government protesters killed in the past weeks' clashes with riot police People leave flowers and mourn near a makeshift memorial in homage to anti-government protesters killed in the past weeks' clashes with riot police (Getty Images)
It remains unclear, however, whether the Kremlin will continue to support Mr Yanukovych himself or, indeed, whether he has the appetite for attempting to return to power. Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister who was part of the EU team brokering a deal between the government and opposition before the former president’s departure, said: "At one point during the conversation his face went pale. We managed to convince him to agree to shorten his term in office, something he had refused to do at first."

His only public appearance since leaving the capital saw Mr Yanukovych call his opponents Nazis and insisted he was still President and would never leave. But, saying hello to border security officials, that is what he had tried to do. He had flown in by helicopter to Donetsk and then attempted to leave, along with a number of officials on two private jets. They were grounded.

After a night of driving, the deposed President reached the Crimean peninsula where, it is said, he learned that Parliament had voted to remove him from office.


Ukraine's anti-riot police disbanded

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?