KIEV, February 28 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s chief prosecutor asked Russia to extradite deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday, as the fugitive leader prepared in Russia to give his first press conference since his disappearance in Ukraine earlier this week.
The statement, posted on the Prosecutor’s Office website, said Ukraine “intends to raise the issue of extradition of Viktor Yanukovych, an internationally wanted citizen of Ukraine, in the event of official confirmation of his stay” in Russia.
Yanukovych is scheduled to hold a press conference in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don at 5 p.m. local time (11 GMT) on Friday.
Local news agency DonInformBuro, citing undisclosed sources, reported that Yanukovych had landed at a military airport in the city escorted by fighter jets late on Thursday.
Yanukovych vanished after being deposed as president by Ukraine’s parliament last weekend, giving rise to feverish speculation about his whereabouts while Ukraine put him on an international wanted list on mass murder charges for his role in deadly clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Kiev that left nearly 100 dead.
His formal status in Russia remains unclear ahead of the press conference, though his presence in the country seems to indicate that President Vladimir Putin has at least tacitly accepted a purported plea for protection by Yanukovych.
The ousted Ukrainian leader apparently claimed in a statement Thursday that he was still the legitimate president of his country and that he had been forced to ask Russia to ensure his personal security from “extremists.”
But some sources close to Yanukovych have said they consider the Internet-posted decree to be fake.
The toppling of Yanukovych’s government last weekend has provoked a wave of pro-Russia rallies in southern and eastern parts of Ukraine, particularly in the Crimean Peninsula, where ethnic Russians are the majority.