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Ukraine's Ex-President Accuses Kyiv of Sabotaging His Testimony

  • RFE/RL

Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovych speaks at a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Nov. 25, 2016.

Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovych speaks at a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Nov. 25, 2016.

Ukraine's ousted President Viktor Yanukovych has accused Kyiv of "setting up a provocation" to "sabotage" his video testimony in a Ukrainian court trial of five former policemen charged with fatally shooting scores of antigovernment protesters in Kyiv in 2014.

Yanukovych, now living in exile in Russia, briefly appeared by video link on November 25 from Rostov-on-Don before a Kyiv courtroom.

But his testimony was postponed until Monday after demonstrators from the Right Sector nationalist group blocked the exit of the jail where the five defendants -- former special forces officers -- are being held.

"I had preliminary information that the Ukrainian government was setting up a provocation in order to sabotage today's court hearing and prevent me from testifying as a witness in the case at any cost," Yanukovych told Russia's Rossia 24 television after his testimony was rescheduled.

A spokesman for Right Sector was quoted by the Ukrainian media as saying the demonstrators feared that the defendants would be set free after the court hearing.

Yanukovych was due to be questioned as a witness in the trial of five former Ukrainian riot police officers accused of murdering protesters. He was also expected to be asked what role he played in the crackdown.

In opening remarks via video link, Yanukovych said he wanted to "establish the truth" about the death of more than 100 demonstrators during the Euromaidan protests.

He said, "It was my own initiative to be a witness in this case. This was my own decision. So I am interested in establishing the truth in this case and punishing the perpetrators.

"I clearly see that delaying my questioning is a deliberate decision made by [protesters] today who don't want to establish the truth," Yanukovych added.

More than 100 protesters were killed in the three months of street demonstrations in Kyiv’s Maidan square that forced Yanukovych to flee to Russia.

Forty-eight of them were allegedly gunned down in February 2014 by snipers who Ukrainian authorities claim received direct orders from Russian-backed Yanukovych.

Russia moved to seize Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula shortly after Yanukovych was driven from power by protesters angry over his decision to abandon plans for a landmark pact with the EU and forge closer ties with Moscow.

Russia subsequently backed separatists who seized parts of eastern Ukraine, leading to a war that has killed more than 9,600 people.

Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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