Ukraine: Viktor Yanukovych allies attempt dramatic escape

Written by AFP | Kiev, Ukraine | Updated: Feb 25 2014, 16:05pm hrs
Viktor YanukovychThe bodyguards of two close allies of Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych. Reuters
The bodyguards of two close allies of Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych fired on border guards when they were blocked from trying to escape the country, an official said today.

Several Viktor Yanukovych allies have reportedly attempted to flee -- as the former president did too -- or defected over the past days as deadly clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in Kiev sparked a series of rapid-fire political changes that saw parliament come under opposition control.

Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and tax chief Oleksandr Klimenko, both of who belonged to Yaunkovych's so-called "Family" of close-knit political and financial allies, were blocked from going "abroad" at the Donetsk airport, Oleg Makhnytsky, interim prosecutor general, told parliament.

They were only able to get away Saturday when their bodyguards shot at border guards, he said.

"Measures have been taken to arrest Pshonka and Klimenko and initiate legal proceedings against them," Makhnytsky said.

Ousted interior minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko and other ministers were also reportedly seen at the same airport, he added.

Viktor Yanukovych himself, shortly after denouncing a "coup" on local television and denying he had resigned, reportedly tried to leave Donetsk abroad a private plane yesterday.

Border service spokesman Sergiy Astahov told AFP the ousted president's aides tried to bribe border police to let him go, but they refused and he then left the airport.

Boxer-turned-opposition-leader Vitali Klitschko, meanwhile, said today he had phoned Belarus's authoritarian president to ask him to extradite the ousted police chief Zakharchenko, as well as a young oligarch close to the "family" called Sergiy Kurchenko.

The Belarus president "said those people were not in Belarus," Klitschko said, insisting on the need to "urgently find all state criminals".

Klitschko did not spell out why he thought Zakharchenko -- a hate figure for the opposition because of his orders to open fire on protesters in a week of violence that left nearly 100 dead in Kiev -- might be in Belarus.