Less than 48 hours after he fled Kiev, effectively ending his presidential tenure, Viktor Yanukovych found himself a wanted man. Ukraine’s remaining lawmakers issued an arrest warrant for the ousted leader, accusing him of mass crimes against humanity for his role in the violence against protestors that left 82 dead last week.
Yanukovych has reportedly taken refuge in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, a pro-Russian area of Ukraine. Though Russia was silent during the weekend’s tumultuous events, which culminated in the president’s ouster, on Monday it called parliament’s actions an “armed mutiny.”
Russia has long supported Yanukovych. The former president’s attempt to strengthen his country’s ties with its one-time communist overlord prompted the months-long protests in Kiev, where residents want a closer relationship with their Western neighbors in Europe.
On Sunday, Ukrainians toured the grounds of Yanukovych’s palatial estate just outside Kiev, where self-appointed security forces loyal to the protest movement stood guard to prevent looting and vandalism. Documents discovered on the grounds, some retrieved from a pond where they’d been dumped as the president fled, detailed lavish spending while the country struggled under a collapsing economy.
According to the documents, Yanukovych spent $2.3 million to decorate his dining hall and tea room, $1.5 million on plants, and $110,000 on curtains for a room he called the “knight’s hall.” The receipts also showed $12 million in cash and $115,000 for a statue of a wild boar. Yanukovych always refused to answer questions about his home, maintaining that he lived in a modest house on a small plot of land in the 345-acre Mezhygirya Park. Near his opulent mansion, the president maintained a small zoo with ostriches and peacocks.
On Saturday night, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, fresh out of prison, rallied the crowds still thronging Kiev’s Independence Square, also known as the Maidan. Looking weak and speaking from a wheelchair, Tymoshenko encouraged protestors to keep speaking out until they got what they wanted.
“You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine,” she said, adding later, “In no case do you have the right to leave the Maidan until you have concluded everything that you planned to do.”
Tymoshenko also announced her intention to run for president. Ukraine’s parliament speaker, Oleksandr Turchinov, who is acting as interim president, said today he hopes to form a new coalition government by tomorrow.
But the way forward for this country of 46 million is far from certain. While residents in the west and north favor stronger ties with Europe, people in the south and east are staunchly pro-Russia. In the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, pro-Russian protestors gathered in front of city hall today chanting “Russia! Russia!” They also pulled down the Ukrainian flag flying nearby and replaced it with a Russian flag.
The country’s interim government also faces severe financial pressure. Acting finance minister Yuri Kolobov said the country needs a $35 billion infusion to finance the government’s operations this year and next. He called on help from Europe and the United States and suggested the nation’s allies hold a donor conference as quickly as possible.