Former Ukraine President Yanukovich sought on mass murder charges

Viktor Yanukovich, who fled Kiev in a panic on Friday for friendlier climes, is being sought for charges of mass murder, the new government announced on Monday.


Ukraine's new authorities issued an arrest warrant on Monday for mass murder against ousted President Viktor Yanukovich, who is on the run after being toppled by bloody street protests in which police snipers killed opposition demonstrators.

Russia, Yanukovich's main backer, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities, declaring that Russian citizens' lives were under threat there, and contacted NATO to express concern.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Kiev to discuss measures to shore up the ailing economy, which the finance ministry said needs urgent financial assistance to avoid default.

The EU has contacted the United States, Japan, China, Canada and Turkey to coordinate aid for Ukraine, a senior European Commission official said. France's foreign minister said an international donors' conference was being discussed.

Yanukovich, 63, who fled Kiev by helicopter on Friday, was still at large after heading first to his power base in the east, where he was prevented from flying out of the country, and then diverting south to Crimea, acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said.

"An official case for the mass murder of peaceful citizens has been opened," Avakov wrote on his Facebook profile. "Yanukovich and other people responsible for this have been declared wanted."

Yanukovich had left a private residence in Balaclava, in pro-Russian Crimea, for an unknown destination by car with one of his aides and a handful of security guards, Avakov said.

It was an ignominious political end for Yanukovich who has been publicly deserted by some of his closest erstwhile allies, stripped of his luxury residence near Kiev and had to witness the release from prison of his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko.

The mass murder charge ups the ante for Russia, who is expressing "grave concern" about the safety of its citizens and Ruissian speaking citizens of Ukraine who live mostly in the east. In fact, the Russian government sounds downright ominous in its warnings:

Russia recalled its ambassador from Kiev for consultations on Sunday, accusing the opposition of having torn up a transition agreement with the president it supported.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow had grave doubts about the legitimacy of those now in power in Ukraine and their recognition by some states was an "aberration".

"We do not understand what is going on there. There is a real threat to our interests and to the lives of our citizens," Medvedev was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Russia cited a duty to protect the lives of its citizens in 2008 as one justification for military intervention in Georgia, another former Soviet republic, in support of Kremlin-backed separatists in South Ossetia.

Would Russia sit idly by while their handpicked puppet Yanukovich were put on trial for what amounts to a "crime against humanity"? Hopefully, Ukraine will not make the same mistake that Georgia made in 2008 and expect help from the EU or America if Russia decides to settle matters with arms. It's not going to happen and the new government is no doubt being made aware of the reality that the west is not going to sacrifice blood and treasure to keep Ukraine free.

Putin would prefer not using military force and he may not have to in order to get most of what he wants. Ukraine is dependent on Moscow for its energy needs and Putin has shown no reluctance to use that weapon against his enemies. And Russia has already offered $15 billion in loans - far more than Ukraine is likely to get from the IMF and the west.

So one would expect the new government not to tweak the Russians too much. But these are heady days for the opposition and the temptation to stick it to Moscow may be too great to resist.

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