News / Europe

Fishing for Yanukovych’s Dirty Secrets

A group of journalists and criminal investigators work to preserve and photograph papers found dumped at ousted president Viktor Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya estate outside Kyiv.
A group of journalists and criminal investigators work to preserve and photograph papers found dumped at ousted president Viktor Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya estate outside Kyiv.
Someone wanted the records to disappear without a trace under the gray waves of the Kyiv Reservoir. Instead, they are ending up on the Internet for everyone in the world to see.

When ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage were fleeing the lavish presidential residence at Mezhyhirya, outside of Kyiv, on the night of February 21-22, they dumped hundreds of documents into the reservoir in an amateurish attempt to conceal the information they contain.

But journalists and scuba divers showed up on the scene just hours later and began recovering the soggy papers. Some were floating surreally along the edges of the water; others were recovered in stuffed file folders from the depths.

For the last three days, a group of journalists and criminal investigators from the post-Yanukovych government has been working to dry out the papers and the first 500 have now been photographed and placed on a special website Yanukovychleaks.org for all to see.

According to the website, the trove includes nearly 200 folders of documents, although the exact number of pages is unknown. The 500 pages posted so far are only a small fraction, not more than two percent, of the total.

'Like a medieval fiefdom'

So far, it appears that the papers mostly tell the sordid story of the pompous Mezhyhirya estate itself - how it was questionably privatized by murky companies that now can likely be traced to Yanukovych and how it was remodeled and appointed at great expense. Other documents tell similar tales about Yanukovych's Sukholuche hunting lodge and other presidential retreats.

Some images from Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya estate outside Kyiv:

  • People walk around Viktor Yanukovych's countryside residence in Mezhyhirya, outside Kyiv, Feb, 22, 2014.
  • People look through windows of the Mezhyhirya residence of Viktor Yanukovych in the village Novi Petrivtsi, Feb. 22, 2014.
  • A man gestures behind the interior bar of the Mezhyhirya residence of Viktor Yanukovich in the village Novi Petrivtsi, Feb. 22, 2014.
  • A man holds one of Viktor Yanukovych's golf clubs at the golf course on Yanukovych's countryside residence in Mezhyhirya, Feb, 22, 2014.
  • People walk on the grounds of the Mezhyhirya residence of Viktor Yanukovych in the village Novi Petrivtsi, Feb. 22, 2014.
  • People look through windows of the Mezhyhirya residence of Viktor Yanukovych as anti-government protesters and journalists walk on the grounds in the village Novi Petrivtsi, Feb. 22, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters and journalists look at ostriches kept on the grounds of the Mezhyhirya residence of Viktor Yanukovych, Feb. 22, 2014.

Many of the records seem to relate to cash payments ranging up to millions of dollars. One document from September 2010 apparently records the transfer of $12 million in cash for an unknown purpose.

According to Kyiv Post deputy chief editor Katya Gorchinskaya, who is among those working on the documents, Yanukovych emerges "as an ugly man who ran both his home and his nation like a medieval fiefdom."

There are also "blacklists" of Yanukovych's antagonists, including journalists, Femen activists, and members of Ukrainian nationalist organizations.

Journalist and activist Tetyana Chornovol, who miraculously survived being abducted, beaten, and left to die on a freezing December night, was among those whose dossier was found at Mezhyhirya. Yanukovych's police at the time dismissed the incident as "road rage."

'No idea about morality'

Kyiv's Vernadskyy Library has provided special hot-air cannons that are used to rescue water-damaged documents, and they have been set up in a room in one of the presidential estate's outbuildings. A group of archivists who specialize in document restoration and preservation have also been working at the scene.

Journalists, fearing their access to the documents could be restricted at any moment, have worked around the clock to photograph them. After the papers are dried, they will be properly scanned and the images placed on the Yanukovychleaks website.

Project organizers are now promising that all the records, without exception, will be made available in the next few days.

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili was quoted in The Guardian on February 25 as saying Yanukovych would openly brag about corruption and malfeasance in his government at international gatherings. At the U.N. General Assembly in 2011, Saakashvili said, Yanukovych talked openly about how he "corrupted" top officials and judges.

"He didn't care who he was talking to," Saakashvili reportedly said. "The guy did not have any idea about morality."

Robert Coalson contributed to this report from Prague

You May Like

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid