Ukraine's fugitive president wanted for mass murder
Fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, ousted after bloody street protests in which demonstrators were shot by police snipers, is wanted on an arrest warrant for mass murder, authorities announced today.
As rival neighbors east and west of the former Soviet republic said a power vacuum in Kiev must not lead to the country breaking apart, acting President Oleksander Turchinov said Ukraine's new leaders wanted relations with Russia on a "new, equal and good-neighborly footing that recognizes and takes into account Ukraine's European choice".
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was travelling to Ukraine to discuss measures to shore up the ailing economy, which the finance ministry said needs $35 billion in foreign aid over the next two years.
Russian-backed Yanukovich, 63, who fled Kiev by helicopter on Friday, is still at large after heading first to his eastern power base, where he was prevented from flying out of the country, and then diverting south to the 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 the Russian-speaking 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 outside Kiev and had to witness the return of his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko.
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.
In a sign of nervousness over how Moscow may react, Oleh Tyahnybok, a far-right nationalist who was one of three opposition leaders who negotiated with Yanukovich on Friday, said the Defence Ministry should check out reports that Russian troops might gather on Ukraine's border.
He gave no details and did not suggest such troop movements had actually taken place. Interfax news agency later quoted Ukrainian border guards as saying there was no sign of any Russian troop movements near the border.
Tyahnybok said a boat was due to arrive in the Crimean port of Sevastopol with 200 Russian commandos. Russia's Black Sea fleet is based in Sevastopol and its forces come and go freely. It was not clear whether this was a long-scheduled arrival.