MOSCOW, February 23 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine's embattled president was blocked from taking a plane to Russia, hours after Ukrainian MPs voted to remove him from office, new parliamentary speaker said Sunday.
President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned his lavish estate Saturday and tried to board a charter plane in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk, but was prevented from doing so by Ukraine’s customs officers, Oleksandr Turchynov said.
“He [Yanukovych] is now hiding in the Donetsk region,” Russian media reports quoted Turchynov as saying. He gave no details on Yanukovych’s destination, as the flight did not undergo the registration procedure.
Yanukovych insisted Saturday that he would neither resign nor sign any agreement with what he called “bandits terrorizing the country.” He described the events in Kiev as a "coup".
A report by Donetskie Vesti claimed Yanukovych could be now outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv at a dacha, belonging to an unnamed official. The presidential plane reportedly landed at the airport of the United Arab Emirates Saturday to distract attention.
Presidential spokeswoman Anna German said Saturday Yanukovych had left Kiev for Kharkiv to meet with his supporters.
Yanukovych fled his luxury mansion in Mezhyhirya, outside Kiev, Saturday, which was previously closed to visitors. Thousands of Ukrainians were given unprecedented access to the 343 acre estate that features a huge man-made lake, a private zoo, car park and spa.
Ukraine’s new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, confirmed the report saying Yanukovych tried to flee the country late on Saturday, but his attempt was stopped by Ukraine's border control service.
“After Yanukovych failed to fly out of the country, he left the plane, got into a car and headed in unknown direction,” Avakov told the Unian news agency.
Ukraine’s ex-prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka, and Oleksandr Klymenko, the former minister of revenue and duties, also failed to leave the airport in Donetsk Saturday. “There was a shooting, during which Pshonka and Klymenko left the airport,” Avakov said.
In a bid to dissociate themselves from the embattled president, the Party of Regions issued a statement, condemning the president’s attempt to flee and blaming him for dozens of deaths of civilian protesters and police.
“Ukraine was deceived and robbed, but it is nothing compared to the grief of dozens of Ukrainian families, who lost their loved ones fighting on both sides of barricades. Ukraine was betrayed and people were forced to confront each other. Yanukovych and his allies bear full responsibility for this,” the statement reads.
The party assured that it would continue its work “to serve Ukraine and its people.”
Updates with Party of Regions’ statement