The court hearing on the case of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych took place today, May 18, 2017, in Kyiv. Yanukovych is currently in hiding in Russia, but wished to play a role in the process via video conference. However, the court announced the case's suspension until May 29, so the lawyers can review the case file.
Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's fugitive former president was charged with treason against the state and the violation of foreign territorial supremacy. Under these articles, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Here's the information Hromadske has gathered about his case.
Court hearing with ex-members of 'Berkut', 28.11.2016. Photo: EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO
According to the investigation, in the midst of the Maidan protests in Ukraine in March 2014, Yanukovych asked Russian authorities to send troops into the country. He sent a letter to the Council of the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin's Presidential Administration, prosecutors said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Yanukovych addressed the letter the Putin.
"In a country dominated by chaos and anarchy. The lives, safety and rights of people, especially in the south east and in Crimea were threatened. Under the influence of Western countries, terror and violence has been unleashed, people are being persecuted for their political and linguistic characters. In this regard, I appeal to Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin with the request to use the Russian Armed Forces to restore the rule of law, peace, order, stability and the protection of Ukraine," the statement said.
The Yanukovych Case
Besides treason, Viktor Yanukovych is suspected of crimes committed during seven different episodes.
1. The creation of a criminal organization and the execution of a number of "grave" and "especially grave" crimes (according to Ukrainian criminial law classifications). The Prosecutor General believes that the actions of the former president in January-February 2014 resulted in the deaths of 78 people on Maidan. More than 180 people received gunshot wounds during this period.
2. The misappropriation of the complex "Puscha-Voditsa" in Mezhyhirya, where Yanukovych's former residence is located. According to the investigation, more than $17 million were wasted on the complex.
3. The appropriation of forests in the Sukholuchchya territory near Kyiv. Investigators estimated the value of this property to be over $850,000.
4. The creation and illegal financing of the budget of the telecommunications network Ukrtelecom, owned by Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine. According to the Prosecutor General, Yanukovych commited this crime with ex-Premier Mykola Azarov.
5. Taking bribes, under the guise of fees, amounting to more than $1 million. In 2011-2012 the Donetsk printing press "Noviy Svi" paid Yanukovych this "fee" for the transfer of rights to all books he has written and any works he plans to write in the future.
6. Signing the "anti-democratic laws package" of January 16, 2014, which was adopted "by rigging the votes of deputies".
7. The illegal imprisonment of Archbishop Oleksandr Drabinko, assistant to the late Metropolitan Volodymyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. According to the investigators, Yanukovych personally organized the the kidnapping of the Metropolitan's assistant.
Yanukovych gives his speech online during court hearing on November, 25, 2016. Photo: EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY
According to the State Service for Financial Monitoring, Viktor Yanukovych, Mykola Azarov and their associates were involved in the theft of more than $7,578 million (nearly 200 billion UAH).
Currently, only the case of the State Council vs. Yanukovych is being brought before the court. Other cases against the ex-president have been suspended. The investigation into his accomplices continues.
The prosecutors office sees two possible scenarios: either wait for his arrival or extradite Yanukovych to Ukraine, an unlikely scenario, or start the proceedings for his conviction in abstentia.
In March 2017 the Parliament of Ukraine adopted legal amendments to the law on conviction in abstentia to allow for the beginnig of trials in abstentia ordered against Yanukovych and 23 Russian generals.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian human rights activists and lawyers stressed that such changes to the law could point to selective justice against a particular person, in this case, Yanukovych.
"The procedure allows for clear human right violations. This can lead to the person being convicted under this law to appeal the decision. And instead of a sentence, we get a piece of paper that does not have power in any jurisdiction except Ukraine. Moreover, these citizens will become victims of political persecutions," the lawyer of the families of the "Heavenly Hundred," Vitaly Tytych told Hromadske.
The head of the Department of Special Investigations of the Prosecutor General, Serhyi Horbatyuk, also criticized conviction in abstention. It was his unit investigating the crimes of Euromaidan.
According to Horbatyuk, the risk remains that court decisions regarding former officials made by correspondence could be revoked by the European Court of Human Rights.
/Reporting by Dmytro Replianchuk
/Translated by Eilish Hart