UARU
Unclear Future Looms Over Lavish Estate of Ukraine’s Fugitive President
21 April, 2017
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“Mezhyhirya”, the huge former residence of the fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, has been waiting for its owner for three years. But he's never returned. After the bloody events on Maidan in 2014, Yanukovych fled to Russia. His vast luxury house in the Kyivskiy region, which became a symbol of corruption in Ukraine, is still under arrest, and its legal status has not yet been determined.

Officilay, the territory of Mezhyhirya belongs to the Kyiv corporation, ‘Tantalit’. However, it’s just a formality, existent only on paper to keep the house on the balance sheet, writes Ukrainska Pravda.

Recently, on March 19th 2017, the court ruled that the transfer of 'Mezhyhirya', from state property to a private company, illegal. Since February 22nd 2014, Denys Tarakhkotelyk, a former Maidan activist, has been looking after 'Mezhyhirya'. He was among the first people to enter 'Mezhyhirya' after Yanukovych fled to Russia. Now, Mezhyhirya is a museum where everybody can see for themselves the scale of former president’s corruption.

Hromadske traveled to 'Mezhyhirya' to see how it's changed in the three years it's been since the estate's evolution from presidential residence to museum of corruption.

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

The area of Mezhyhirya is more than 140 hectares. There is a large golf course, a zoo, greenhouses and a modern laboratory in the house. Viktor Yanukovych lived in a building with several floors with expensive furniture and ancient icons.

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske
When you get inside, it feels more like a museum or a palace of British monarchs: huge chandeliers, crystals, birds in cages.Food, water, and even the air Yanukovych breathed in Mezhyhirya were examined in a high-tech laboratory. Each device costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, says Tetiana, a microbiologist.

Some parts of the house contain an environment appropriate for certain microorganisms. Then a cover with holes is placed on it. When you press the button, the required volume of air is absorbed.

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Viktor Yanukovych mainly ate vegetables, which were grown, in these greenhouses of Mezhyhirya.

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

There is a zoo near the greenhouses with the famous ostriches. By the way, new ostriches were born not long ago. Besides ostriches there are antelopes, lamas, donkeys and rare peacocks that live here.

The residence is also famous for its collection of vintage cars. There are 35 vintage cars and 7 motorbikes.A 2009 ZIL is part of the collection. There are only 3 such cars in the world. One is in Moscow and belongs to Vladimir Putin, the second is in Astana, and belongs to Nursultan Nazarbayev. The third one belonged to Yanukovych. Also, a 1938 Audi covered with dust is here. The majority of the cars were seized. The cost of them hasn’t been determined yet.

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

Since February 22nd, 2014, Denys Tarakhkotelyk, a former activist of the Maidan has been looking after Mezhyhirya. He was among the first people to enter Mezhyhirya after Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Denys TarakhkotelykPhoto by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

“When I got to the fourth checkpoint, I met the head of the department of civil protection,” he says. “He was the only one left here. He disbanded the security forces. Security guards with weapons left Mezhyhirya. There was the head of a private security company with him, a driver, and a watchman. There were 4 of them. I asked them if they were prepared for people to enter the residence, that they would be everywhere. “What can we do? I didn’t receive any order. I decided myself to disband security. I am alone and won’t leave the territory until I receive an order from the major.”

Now the territory of Mezhyhirya is open to visitors. However, you have to pay an entrance fee. From the legal point of view, it’s considered as a donation to support the residence, explains the commandant of Mezhyhirya.

Photo by Oleksandr Popenko, Hromadske

“During the 6 months of the summer season, on average, we receive $86,000-93,500 USD. During the winter season, the sum is $5,600-$7,500 USD,” said Tarakhkotelyk.

According to him, the government doesn’t support the residence financially. Representatives of the former self-defense groups provide security. Special unit soldiers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and National Guard provide public order. In total, about 200 people work in Mezhyhirya. According to the commandant, a lot of problems have surfaced in Mezhyhirya over the last 3 years.

Mezhyhirya has to become a state property after the court hearings. And on this basis, a state enterprise can be established. In world practice, as Canadian lawyers say, the national park can be managed by the community, and controlled by the state institution, so that neither the community nor the state body can steal anything. I think that’s an acceptable concept for the Mezhyhirya national park.

/by Dmytro Replianchuk, Oleksandr Popenko