In Ukraine Ex-leader Yanukovych accuses protesters of starting war

But he fled to Russia after the bloodbath that killed more than 100 people and cannot be prosecuted by the Kiev courts.

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Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since a Moscow-backed insurgency erupted in eastern Ukraine in April 2014 play

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since a Moscow-backed insurgency erupted in eastern Ukraine in April 2014

(AFP/File)
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Ukraine's former Moscow-backed president on Monday accused pro-EU protesters who forced his ouster of provoking the 31-month pro-Russian revolt in the southeast that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.

Viktor Yanukovych is standing as a witness in the court case of five Ukrainian riot police who are accused of opening fire at mostly unarmed people during the February 2014 revolution that turned the ex-Soviet republic toward the West.

Yanukovych himself stands accused of treason in Ukraine.

But he fled to Russia after the bloodbath that killed more than 100 people and cannot be prosecuted by the Kiev courts.

Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych addresses a court in Kiev via a live video link from Russia on November 28, 2016 play

Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych addresses a court in Kiev via a live video link from Russia on November 28, 2016

(AFP)

Monday's hearings were being held by video conference, with the Ukrainian prosecutor and the accused officers in Kiev and Yanukovych giving testimony in the southern Russian city of Rostov.

Yanukovych has passionately denied ordering the now-disbanded Berkut anti-riot police force to open fire on the protesters during three days of violence in the heart of Kiev that also killed around a dozen officers.

He began his testimony on Monday by accusing "the radicals of seizing power" and then "preparing to force their will on the people of the south and east who disagreed with what was happening in Kiev."

The industrial region is predominantly Russian speaking and often takes a more sceptical view of both the European Union and the United States.

More than 100 people were killed in violent clashes between anti-government protesters and Ukrainian riot police in February 2014 play

More than 100 people were killed in violent clashes between anti-government protesters and Ukrainian riot police in February 2014

(AFP/File)

The protests began in November 2013 in response to Yanukovych's abrupt decision to scrap a landmark pact with the EU in favour of closer Russia ties.

Ukraine has since signed the EU trade and political association agreement and blamed Russia for plotting and backing the war in reprisal for Kiev's shift out of the Kremlin's orbit.

Russia denies the charge and accuses the US State Department of stoking the protests and trying to win over Ukraine.

But debates in Kiev rage mostly over who was responsible for the worst carnage in Ukraine since World War II. Both the protesters and the police accuse each other of opening the fire.

A 2015 BBC documentary strongly suggested that a far-right fringe element of the protest group shot at the police in order to provoke a response and make the Berkut seem responsible for the resulting deaths.

Ukraine strongly denies the claim.

The festering conflict in the EU's back yard -- one of the bloodiest since the 1990s Balkans Wars -- has created tensions across eastern Europe and plunged Moscow's relations with the West to a post-Cold War low.

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