Ousted President Viktor Yanukovych issued a statement condemning interim government
Ukrainian authorities issued a warrant for Yanukovych's arrest last week
Ukraine gained independence in 1991
Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych went missing in the midst of upheaval in his country, but his whereabouts probably won’t be secret for long – assuming he shows up at his own news conference Friday.
Yanukovych will hold the conference at 5 p.m. Friday in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Russian state news agency Itar-Tass said Thursday.
Ria Novosti, another state news agency, reported that anonymous government sources said Thursday that Yanukovych was in Russia and that Russian authorities accepted his request for security.
The fugitive president issued a statement to Russian news agencies condemning the country’s interim government and alleging that recent actions in the Ukrainian Parliament are illegitimate.
Months of anti-government protests reached a bloody climax last week, when street clashes between demonstrators and security forces left more than 80 dead. The protesters’ anger was focused on Yanukovych.
Ukrainian authorities issued a warrant for Yanukovych’s arrest last week over civilian deaths during the protests.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Kiev approved opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the Batkivschina, or Fatherland, Party as prime minister.
Yanukovych wouldn’t be the first controversial figure facing criminal charges to find safe haven in Russia. U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has been there since June, having been granted a one-year asylum.
Russia has strong ties to Ukraine that extend beyond the supply lines providing most of the country’s natural gas.
Ukraine gained independence in 1991; before that, it had, like Russia, been part of the Soviet Union. More historically, most ethnic Ukrainian territory had been part of the Russian Empire. Russian language is spoken by 24% of the population, according to the CIA World Factbook. About 17% of the Ukrainian population is ethnic Russian.
During the Soviet era, in 1954, Russia gave Ukraine a region called Crimea, which has since been in the south of Ukraine and is experiencing unrest this week. Dozens of armed men seized the regional government administration building and parliament there Thursday.
Many ethnic Russians still live in Crimea, where support for Russia is strong. Part of Russia’s navy is based in Crimea; a base in the city of Sevastopol that has been there for 230 years.
The eastern part of Ukraine is also heavily influenced by Russia in terms of language, culture and business. CNN’s Fred Pleitgen reported this week that many pro-Russians there “are very afraid of what might happen next, who are afraid that their culture, their heritage are in danger, who feel that the Russian language – which has always had a special status here in Ukraine – might be in danger of becoming marginalized as well.”
CNN’s Pierre Meilhan, Richard Allen Greene, Marie-Louise Gumuchian. Laura Smith-Spark, Ingrid Formanek and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.