On 22 February 2014, after three months of protests during the Euromaidan revolution and over a hundred dead, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv, was swiftly impeached by the Ukrainian parliament and ended up in Russia. The officials and politicians affiliated to him who became known as Yanukovych’s “family” followed suit. Over the next years, Yanukovych gave press conferences in Russia’s Rostov, where he insisted that he was still the legitimate president of Ukraine and Euromaidan was a coup d’etat. Sanctioned by western governments, the officials of his circle made statements and appearances denouncing the Euromaidan revolution and the pro-western government which was elected after it. This time, they announced they would return to Ukraine and change the political course of the country.
The press conference lasted a little over an hour; it was attended by about 25 journalists, including one journalist from Ukraine. When questioned by this journalist, Azarov skirted around the issues and sermonized about Kyiv’s current failures.
At the beginning of the press conference, the fugitive politicians commented on the interrogation for high treason of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych by Kyiv’s Obolonsky District Court and then voiced the usual Kremlin messages, which had previously been expressed by the fugitive Ukrainian ex-president.
These included statements that the events in Ukraine had led to a “coup d’état,” that Euromaidan protesters had been fully armed, that Yanukovych did not flee the country, and that Yanukovych had drawn up a peace agreement with the opposition which supposedly could have stopped the escalation. They also talked about how the Maidan had divided the country and how the government had surrendered Crimea.
Former Interior Minister Zakharchenko added that he was in possession of certain pieces of evidence that he had brought with him when he fled from Ukraine.
“I started my own my investigation as soon as the protests and riots began, and managed not only to escape with these folders, but also to get further valuable information from certain associates.”
Zakharchenko claims that “his folders” contain evidence indicating that there was no need to for the government to start its “anti-terrorist operation” against Russian-separatist militants in the Donbas. The Ukrainian government operation was launched in April 2014, when following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a Russian-backed separatist movement started wielding control of Ukraine’s easternmost parts.
Zakharchenko did not present these documents but said that he would show them in a court that would “deal objectively and comprehensively” with the case of high treason.
“We will definitely return to our country. You can write that down and I’ll sign it. We represent a Ukraine that the current regime refuses to see and acknowledge. Make no mistake, we will return and resurrect Ukraine and change the political course of the country. I’m firmly convinced that this will happen,” said Azarov.
Ex-Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Vitaliy Zakharchenko also promised that he would return to Ukraine.
“I’m very closely connected with Ukraine. I’ve given many of my best years to this country, and, of course, my future, both private and political, is strongly tied to Ukraine,” said Zakharchenko.
The former Commander of Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Stanislav Shulyak also spoke of his imminent return to Ukraine.
“I will go back… I want to return to a Ukraine, where the red flag of victory flutters in the wind and the St. George ribbon will be a sign of pride and honour of our country, and where the Waffen-SS Galicia Division* will be disowned and disgraced. This is the country I want to return to and I will do everything possible to make this happen,” said Shulyak, referring to the red flag of the Soviet Union and the black-orange striped ribbon which Ukraine banned as a symbol of Russian aggression.
(*Ukrainian military formation in the German armed forces during WW2. The division was organized as part of a programme to create foreign formations of the Waffen SS (eg, Estonian, Latvian) to fight on the Soviet front. The organizer of the division was the German governor of Galicia (Halychyna), Otto von Wachter, and its formation was announced on 28 April 1943. Although at the Nuremberg Trials, the Waffen-SS as a whole was declared to be a criminal organization, the Galizien Division has not specifically been found guilty of any war crimes by any war tribunal or commission – Ed.)
- Ukraine’s fugitive Prime Minister creates “Committee for the Salvation of Ukraine” in Moscow
- Yanukovych and Co: How former Ukrainian officials have settled down in Moscow
- Ukraine’s pre-Euromaidan policy, as told by Yanukovych’s Prime Minister
- Kyiv analyst dismisses former Ukrainian PM’s plans for pro-Russian ‘government in exile’