Ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yunakovych officially became a fugitive from justice as the country’s Interior Ministry put out a warrant for his arrest, accusing Yanukovych of “mass murders of peaceful civilians.”
But Yanukovych has apparently slipped out of Ukraine and can’t be found.
“It’s a remarkable situation when the most sought-after character in the country is the President of Ukraine, who is hiding and doing everything to leave the country, to avoid responsibility,” said opposition leader Vitali Klitschko (pictured above) on Monday.
Klitschko is a retired heavyweight world champion boxer who left the sport to lead the Ukraine Alliance For Democratic Reform — known informally as the “Punch” party in honor of its leader who punched 45 of his 47 opponents into submission during his boxing career, ending 41 of those wins with a knockout while never himself being knocked down.
But Klitschko’s record in electoral politics is not as impressive. He has run for mayor of the Ukraine capital city of Kiev three times and lost all three. In 2012, he ran for a seat in the Ukraine parliament and won.
Klitschko has made no secret of his desire to become president of Ukraine and his increased standing through the protests which began last November may have given him the stature he needed to stage a successful run in the elections that have now been called for May 25.
He faces a potentially formidable opponent, however, in Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was imprisoned by Yanukovych ostensibly for corruption. Most Western governments viewed her imprisonment as Yanokovych simply disposing of a political rival.
Tymoshenko was freed from prison Saturday, the same day the Ukraine parliament voted to oust Yanukovych. Immediately after gaining her freedom, though wheelchair-bound due to a back injury, Tymoshkenko headed straight for Independence Square in Kiev, the epicenter of the protests where crowd of 30,000 remained to hear her speak, greeting her with chants of her name.
Whoever becomes president faces some daunting challenges. Foremost among those, a desperate economic situation which will require a sizable international bailout — $35 billion by the end of 2015, according to Finance Minister Yury Kolobov.
“Ukraine is now in a pre-default condition and sliding into the abyss,” said the new speaker of the country’s parliament, Oleksandr V. Turchynov.