Ukraine crisis: Russia gives protection to fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych

Though he fled Kiev last week, he 'still considers himself the country's legitimate leader'

Moscow on Wednesday granted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych protection "on the territory of Russia," shortly after the fugitive leader sought help from the Kremlin, according to an official quoted by Russian news agencies. 

Meanwhile, a respected Russian news organization reported that Yanukovych was seen in a Moscow hotel and was now staying in a Kremlin sanatorium just outside the city. 

"I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists," Yanukovych said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies on Thursday. 

Shortly after, the same three Russian news agencies quoted an unnamed Russian official saying that Yanukovych's request for protection "was satisfied on the territory of Russia." 

Yanukovych, who fled from Ukraine's capital Kiev last week, said in the Thursday statement that he still considers himself to be the legitimate leader. 

RBK reported Wednesday evening that Yanukovych was staying at the Barvikha sanatorium, which is run by the presidential administration's property department. The spokesman for this department, Viktor Khrekov, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he has no information about this.
The RBK report was impossible to confirm, but security at the Ukraina Hotel was unusually heavy late Wednesday, with police watching from parked vehicles outside and guards posted throughout the lobby. Some of Yanukovych's allies, also reported to have been at the hotel, may have still been there. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman also said he had no information about Yanukovych's reported arrival in Moscow. 

RBK said the information came from one of Russia's wealthiest businessmen and was confirmed by a government official, neither of whom was identified. The article was under the byline of respected journalists, including RBK's editor in chief Elizaveta Osetinskaya, who has high-level contacts in Russian business circles.

AP

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