Ukraine ex-President Viktor Yanukovych is reported to be in Russia and has made a statement claiming continued leadership of the country. The former president has been on the run for nearly a week now with reports of his appearance coming in from the peninsula of Crimea and several other pro-Russian areas in the country. He is currently rumored to be directly under the protection of the Kremlin and was reportedly seen at several Moscow hotels and in a government-run sanatorium just outside the city. His reappearance coincides with action by pro-Russian separatists who have captured the Crimean Parliament building as well as war games by Russian forces along the Ukraine border.
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled from the nation’s capital, Kiev after nearly three months of large-scale protests rocked the country. The premier’s authorization of brute force to quell rioting crowds has resulted in nearly a 100 deaths and thousands of injuries as protestors from around the country took to the city’s streets. The violence in Kiev stands against the tense backdrop of a political and economic crisis caused by Yanukovych’s cancellation of trade talks with the European Union in favor of accepting a $15 billion aid package from Russia in exchange for Government bonds. The move had been seen as the former leader’s support of Russian involvement in Ukraine while the popular vote has focused on closer ties with the EU—seen as the nation’s desire to break away from the Russian influence that has pervaded parts of the country for over two decades since Ukrainian independence.
Despite having an arrest warrant against him in Ukraine and being declared a criminal, former premier Yanukovych made a statement from Russia denouncing the new government led by former speaker and acting President Oleksandr Valentynovych Turchynov as not having legitimate character. “I still consider myself to be the legal head of the Ukrainian state and am compelled to ask the Russian Federation to ensure my personal security from the actions of extremists,” he said.
While Yanukovych’s comments have only served to heighten tensions between Ukraine and Russia, the acting president and commander of the defense forces has joined world leaders from the United States and Britain in warning Russia not to interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs. This follows reports of uniformed militia raising the Russian flag over the Crimean parliament building in the capital, Simferopol and Russia placing over 150,000 troops on high alert along the nation’s border. In a clear warning United States Secretary of State John Kerry said that any military action that threatens the sovereignty of Ukraine would be a grave mistake. Neighboring countries have also warned of the possibility of a civil war between pro-Russian and pro-Europe provinces that may further weaken the country’s already perilous economic position.
In the wake of the announcement by former Ukraine premier Yanukovych who is currently in Russia, the Ukrainian currency—the hryvnia—saw a drop in value of about 4 percent while in Russia, the ruble also took a hammering. Acting President Oleksander Turchynov has stated that the first priority of his government was to provide a gradual return to normalcy for a nation that has battled political and socio-economic uncertainty for two decades since independence. While the United States and several European countries have promised financial aid, for the common man, this normalcy may yet be many years away.
By Grace Stephen