Former-President of Ukraine Found Guilty of Treason
Five years after Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown as president, a Ukrainian court found him guilty on January 24 of treason in his efforts to crush pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014. The court further found him guilty of “complicity in waging an aggressive war against Ukraine.”
Yanukovych had privately requested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deploy troops on Ukrainian soil to undermine protests against his administration.
The court acquitted him of a third charge of taking deliberate actions to violate Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Euromaidan protests catalyzed Yanukovych’s removal from power in 2014. The protests erupted after he decided to scrap a popular European Union integration deal. His desire to pursue closer ties with Moscow added to public disapproval.
During the protests, more than 100 people were killed. Ultimately, Yanukovych fled to Russia and is yet to return to Ukraine. His sentence in absentia carries a 13-year jail term.
The verdict is unlikely to have serious consequences for Yanukovych because he currently resides in Russia and appears to have no plans to leave.
In a video, Yanukovych denies all three charges brought by the prosecution. His lawyer announced that the defense plans to appeal the verdict.
Yanukovych’s profession of innocence is complicated by his past political dealings in Ukraine. Allegations of Russian interference and the poisoning of Yanukovych’s challenger, Viktor Yushchenko, plagued the 2004 presidential race. Yanukovych claimed victory, but the Central Election Commission revoked his victory in early 2005 and ordered new elections; Yushchenko won that race.
Despite his loss in 2004, Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election. Since his flight from office, Ukraine has been subject to increasing turmoil. Russian annexation of Crimea, Kremlin-backed separatists fighting in the southeast, and Russian ships firing on Ukrainian vessels have all rocked the country over the last few years.