Nearly five years after being driven from power by a pro-democracy revolution that saw more than 100 people killed by security forces, Ukraine’s disgraced pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych was tried and sentenced in absentia by a Kyiv court to 13 years in prison for his role in trying to suppress the movement that eventually led to his overthrow.
“Yanukovych committed a crime against the foundation of Ukraine’s national security,” Judge Vladislav Devyatko said in Kyiv’s Obolon District Court on January 24. He was also found guilty of what Devyatko described in the court as “complicity in waging an aggressive war against Ukraine,” a refencnce to the ongoing war between Kyiv and Russian combat units, as well as their pro-Moscow rebel allies, in the Ukraine’s eastern Donbass Region.
Immediately after fleeing Kyiv in February 2014 as the Euromaidan Revolution intensified following Yanukovych’s orders to his fanatically loyal security detail – the Berkut – to use live ammunition against the pro-Western protestors, he first fled to Crimea then to southern Russia before making his way to Moscow where he allegedly pleaded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy regular Russian military units in Ukraine to crush the uprising.
The war that broke out as a result of Russia’s actions in response to the revolution that chased Yanukovych from power has left 10,500 people dead and nearly a million as internally displaced people.
Moscow was able to seize control over Ukraine’s strategic Black Sea region Crimea, but has been unable to capture additional territory beyond a thin band of mostly impoverished mining land on the Russian-Ukrainian border that also includes the regional capital Donetsk, which once had a pre-war population of over 1.5 million people.
The International Criminal Court ruled in November 2016 that the fighting in eastern Ukraine is “a major international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.”