UK & World News

  • 24 February 2014, 19:30

Ukraine President Wanted For 'Mass Murder'

Ukraine has issued an arrest warrant for President Viktor Yanukovych, as Russia declared its neighbouring country's situation a "real threat" to its interests.

Mr Yanukovych, whose exact whereabouts were unknown, and other officials were wanted by police for the "mass murder" of protesters last week in Kiev.

Ukrainian acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said the deposed leader had left a private residence in Balaclava, in the Russian-speaking Crimea region, for an unknown destination with one of his aides.

Spokesmen for the interior ministry and security service in Crimea said they had no information to support reports from opposition politicians and a news website that the president had been arrested or seen with Russian marines there.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine's new authorities, accusing the interim leaders of taking power through what he called "armed mutiny" and said he would not deal with them.

His foreign ministry said Ukraine's opposition used "dictatorial and sometimes terrorist methods" and last Friday's peace deal with Mr Yanukovych was being used as "cover for a power grab".

In an exclusive interview with Sky News, Ukraine's ambassador to the UK vowed that the authorities will catch up with Mr Yanukovych.

Volodymyr Khandogiy said: "Wherever he is, sooner or later, he will be brought to justice." He also dismissed Russian claims Mr Yanukovych's removal amounted to a coup d'etat.

Speaking in the Commons, William Hague said it was clear the president's authority "is no longer widely accepted".

The Foreign Secretary added: "It's not about a choice for Ukraine between Russia and the EU, it is about setting the country on a democratic path for the future."

He also said he would travel to Washington later for talks with the US Secretary of State and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an attempt to push through a package to solve Ukraine's short-term economic problems.

The White House later said the US was ready to boost IMF financial aid efforts.

Western governments are scrambling to provide support for Ukraine amid fears that Russia could send in troops to intervene in support of its ousted ally.

Mr Medvedev, however, said their backing of the interim government 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," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

"There are big doubts about the legitimacy of a whole series of organs of power that are now functioning there."

The Russian foreign ministry accused the West of engaging in "unilateral geopolitical calculations" and said the concerns of Russian-aligned areas in Crimea, the south and east of the country should be listened to.

Russia's economy minister has warned Kiev against signing a partnership agreement with the EU - threatening to hike import duties if Ukraine looks to forge closer ties with the west.

There was evidence of a backlash against the country's revolution in Crimea, as hundreds of people gathered in front of Sevastopol's main administrative building, demanding a new Russian mayor and chanting "Russia! We won't let a fascist come!" 

Britain has joined the EU and US in pledging financial assistance to Ukraine as the West prepares for the possibility that Mr Putin could pull the plug on a $15bn (£9bn) deal to prop up the ailing economy.

Ukraine's finance ministry says it needs $35bn to get through 2014 and 2015 and a senior European Commission source said talks have taken place with Japan, China, Canada, Turkey and the US, with efforts being made to keep Russia engaged.

Russia's financial backing was seen as a reward for My Yanukovych's decision last November to spurn an EU trade deal and opt for closer links with Moscow - a move that sparked protests in Kiev.

Ukraine's interim leadership has set a course for European integration now Mr Yanukovych has been ousted. Acting president Oleksandr Turchinov said the country would seek relations with Russia on a "new, equal and good-neighbourly footing."

Parliament has until Tuesday to form a new unity government and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is in Kiev where she will meet him.

Mr Yanukovych was deposed by parliament on Saturday after months of bloody unrest - with 82 people killed in clashes between protesters and riot police. He has been refused permission to fly out of Ukraine and has said he will not resign.

Financial documents found in his abandoned presidential compound detailed Mr Yanukovych's lavish spending, often on unusual items.

Among the documents was a receipt for $12m (£7.2m) in cash, and $110,000 (£66,000) spent on curtains in a room called the "Knight's Hall".

Some $1.5m (£900,000) was spent on plants, $115,000 (£69,000) for a statue of a "running boar", and there was a receipt for a $4,000 (£2,400) "bribe".

:: Watch live coverage of the Ukraine situation on Sky News on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

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