Missing Ukrainian President Is Now Wanted for Mass Murder

Ukraine's interim government has issued an arrest warrant for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, who was last seen leaving Crimea in a three-car convoy on Sunday.

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Ukraine's interim government has issued an arrest warrant for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, who was last seen leaving Crimea in a three-car convoy on Sunday.

In a statement posted to Facebook early on Monday morning, acting interior minister Arsen Avakov wrote that "an official case for the mass murder of peaceful citizens has been opened. Yanukovych and other people responsible for this have been declared wanted. "

Pro-Russia demonstration in Crimea, 2/23. REUTERS

The embattled president fled Kiev on Friday night, spending the night in the eastern city of Kharkiv before going to Donetsk and then to Crimea, where the mostly Russian population was more supportive of his administration. Over the weekend, demonstrators in Kiev availed themselves of Yanukovych's luxurious, empty estate, as security services abandoned government building and stopped assaulting protesters. The triumphant protesters explored the grounds and are starting to sift through abandoned documents including a dossier on activists and journalists and evidence of the leader's lavish spending.

Over the weekend, Oleksandr Turchynov was named interim prime minister and Yulia Tymeshenko, leader of the Fatherland opposition group who was swiftly freed from prison last week, said she would not seek election to the position. German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Tymeshenko on her freedom and showed her support in a phone conversation, and today EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is set to visit the country to discuss reviving the EU-Ukraine trade deal that Yanukovych passed on months ago, prompting the unrest and his eventual ouster. 

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Now, Kiev's Independence Square is calm for the first time in several week, though protest camps remain. The Maidan square is now serving as a memorial for the scores killed in last week's violence. Reuters describes the scene:

On Independence Square in central Kiev, cradle of the uprising, barricades of old furniture and car tires remained in place, with smoke rising from camp fires among tents occupied by diehards vowing to stay until elections in May. The mood among the few hundred on the square was a mixture of fatigue, sorrow for the 82 people killed last week, and a sense of victory after three months of protests. A large video screen by the side of the stage was showing the faces of the dead, one after another, on a loop.

Ukraine's interim leaders are now tasked with putting together a new Parliament tomorrow, which will have to contend with the country's failing economy. According to the acting finance minister, Ukraine needs $35 billion just this year, which is partly why Yanukovych had brokered a deal with Russia for a $15 billion bailout — a deal that now appears to be off the table, for obvious reasons. Washington has offered to help Ukraine request aid from the International Monetary Fund.

The unrest is unfortunately timed for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hoped international focus on Russia would pertain solely to the Sochi Winter Olympics closing ceremony. Western leaders were cagey when asked whether it was likely that Russia would forcefully intervene in Ukraine's affairs. But they agreed that if the Kremlin does, in the words of  U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, "it would be a grave mistake."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.