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    Switzerland Freezes Assets, Launches Inquiry into Yanukovych

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    Switzerland launched a money-laundering investigation into ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his son on Friday after freezing bank accounts belonging to the deposed leader and over a dozen other top Ukrainian officials.

    KIEV, February 28 (RIA Novosti) – Switzerland launched a money-laundering investigation into ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his son on Friday after freezing bank accounts belonging to the deposed leader and over a dozen other top Ukrainian officials.

    Swiss financial regulator FINMA said it had frozen the assets of Yanukovych, his son Alexander, and 18 other Ukrainians including ex-prime minister Mykola Azarov and former senior officials.

    Agence France-Presse reported that Swiss police searched a company belonging to Yanukovych's son on Friday in connection with the money-laundering investigation.

    Austrian officials also said Friday that they had frozen the local bank accounts of 18 Ukrainians “as a temporary interim measure” pending possible sanctions by the European Union over alleged human rights violations during recent anti-government protests across Ukraine.

    The Austrian government did not release the names of those affected, but said the freeze was requested by the Ukrainian government.

    Yanukovych, who had disappeared before being ousted by Ukraine's parliament last weekend, resurfaced in Russia on Thursday. He was scheduled to hold a press conference in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don at 5 p.m. local time (1100 GMT) on Friday after being reportedly flown in, escorted by fighter jets, the night before.

    Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said it has asked Russia to extradite Yanukovych, noting that the leader was wanted for criminal investigation for mass murder charges. Ukraine put Yanukovych on an international wanted list last week for his role in deadly clashes between police and anti-government protesters in the capital Kiev that left nearly 100 dead. 

    Yanukovych’s formal status in Russia remained unclear ahead of the press conference, though his presence in the country seems to indicate that President Vladimir Putin has at least tacitly accepted his plea for protection.

    The ousted leader had claimed in a statement Thursday that he was still the legitimate president of Ukraine and that he had been forced to ask Russia to ensure his personal security from “extremists.”

    Sources close to Yanukovych have said, however, that they consider the decree distributed via the Internet to be fake.

    The toppling of Yanukovych’s government last weekend has provoked a wave of pro-Russian rallies in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine, particularly in the Crimean Peninsula, where ethnic Russians are in a majority.

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    assets, Viktor Yanukovych, Switzerland
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