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Fugitive Ukraine’s President Yanukovych recalls his lawyers from treason trial, files motion over “coup d’état”

ousted president yanukovych
Viktor Yanukovych reading his address. Published on July 5, 2017. Screenshot of a video on

On July 5, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who stands charged with high treason in Ukraine said he will not participate in the in-absentia treason trial.  The hearing was scheduled to resume in Kyiv on June 6 while the former president has been at large in Russia since 2014.

“I don’t want to participate in the alleged adversary trial, the outcome of which was determined in advance,” Yanukovych said in a statement, adding that his lawyers are “powerless” to argue his case “in the country of obliterated justice.”

The video address by the ousted president was published by the Russian state-owned Channel 1 on 5 July under the title “Former Ukraine’s president spoke to the journalists.” However, the video shows no journalists while former President Yanukovych speaks. There is nothing but a short anchor’s lead, and one and a half minute Yanukovych’s speech he reads from a teleprompter as judged by his repeated left-to-right and back eye movement.

Yanukovych accuses personally President Petro Poroshenko in adopting the law on trial in absentia “in the shortest time possible” to sentence Viktor Yanukovych who absconds in Russia. Runaway President Yanukovych says that the law violates the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Moreover, Yanukovych was refused to allow him to participate in the trial by video conference.

Viktor Yanukovych said prosecutors are “accusing me of all past, present, and future woes of Ukraine” and called the trial “a sham.”

On the next day, June 6, one of Yanukovych’s lawyers, Vitaliy Serdiuk said that Viktor Yanukovych has filed a motion over alleged coup d’état in 2014 with Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office.

Serdiuk stated, “We are talking about deliberate and organized acts aimed at doing Ukraine harm. These include using force to seize power in our state. Namely, these actions led to […] negative events in Crimea and the loss of territorial integrity.”

This is the Russian narrative actively pushed in 2014 to justify the annexation of Crimea. Then Russia’s ambassador in the UN Vitaly Churkin had even displayed a letter by “legitimate President of Ukraine Yanukovych” at a meeting of the UN Security Council in March 2014 alleging that Viktor Yanukovych urged the Russian President Putin “to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to re-establish the rule of law, peace, order, stability and to protect the people of Ukraine.” However, in 2017 the Kremlin denied the existence of Yanukovych’s “invasion letter.”

Yanukovych’s lawyer Serdiuk said that the statement to the PGO on the coup was in the process of being registered according to the established procedure as of 6 July.

The trial hearings opened at 10 a.m. on July 6 but lasted for less than 30 minutes, as neither the defendant nor his defense team were present in the courtroom. Now a public defense lawyer will be appointed by the state for Yanukovych.

Judges postponed the hearing until July 12.

  • Then President Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014.
  • In November 2016, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko read charges against disgraced president Yanukovych in a court through video conference link accusing Yanukovych of violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
  • In January 2017, the Pechersky district court in Kyiv issued arrest warrants for ex-president Viktor Yanukovych and ex-PM Mykola Azarov. Both top officials have been absconding in Russia since 2014.
  • Ex-president Yanukovych is accused of using firearms against protesters in Kyiv in late 2013 and early 2014.
  • Viktor Yanukovych is accused of:
    • being an accomplice as one of the categories of willful participation in a crime;
    • encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine which led to the death of people or other grave consequences;
    • high treason;
    • conducting an aggressive war or aggressive military actions.
  • At the request of the Military Prosecutor’s Office, Kyiv Obolonsky District Court will consider the case of high treason by Yanukovych under the special procedure: trial in absentia. This decision was made by the panel of judges at a meeting on June 29.
  • When testifying about the February 2014 events in Kyiv, Yanukovych stated that he did not give order to law enforcers to use firearms against Euromaidan protesters.
  • On June 6, 2016, Russia declined to extradite Viktor Yanukovych.

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