Days after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled his presidential compound in Kiev, triumphant anti-government activists are attempting to sift through tens of thousands of documents left behind by the president. (Some of them left behind in "unexpected" places.) To help organize and analyze the papers, reporters followed the example of Julian Assange and launched a "YanukovychLeaks" site, which has already attracted more than one million hits.
According to Mashable's Christopher Miller, journalists have found financial documents, tossed into the ocean prior to Yanukovych's exit, which show just how much he spent while the country's economy fails. Miller reports learning the ousted president spent $2.3 million on dining room decorations alone, adding:
Nearly 200 folders filled with thousands of invoices, contracts, insurance policies, cash payment orders and other documents were recovered from the murky depths. The edges of some had been scorched, suggesting that before fleeing Yanukovych had first ordered them to be burned before they were tossed into the sea... The documents also shed light on the dubious dealings that led to the privatization of Mezhyhirya — the name of Yanukovych's estate, which was once a state-owned complex.
Those on the scene have been documenting the recovery and sorting process:
The documents Yanukovych tried to drown. Fished out of a lake & drying out in the sauna of his guest house. pic.twitter.com/Mx1Wpn4UXz— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) February 26, 2014
Our investigative journos are staying at Yanukovych's estate all night, going over documents recovered there today. pic.twitter.com/RCoVDqjWfw— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) February 22, 2014
While reporters examine the documents, the U.S. Treasury told banks to watch out for activity in Yanukovych's accounts, on suspicion that he might try to abscond with financial assets. In a statement, the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said American financial institutions "should be aware of the possible impact that public reports of high-level corruption by senior members of the Yanukovich administration and other illicit activity by members of the administration may have on patterns of financial activity." The U.S. government no longer recognizes Yanukovych as Ukraine's president.
The deposed president was apparently not shy about his corrupt habits. The Guardian reports that, per former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, the president was braggy about his tainted cabinet:
"He would talk very loudly about how he had corrupted senior officials, in the supreme court and the constitutional court," Saakashvili said during an interview in the Ukrainian capital, where he is meeting with opposition leaders after Yanukovych's downfall. "He didn't care who he was talking to; the guy did not have any idea about morality."
Now, interim leaders are attempting to mend the country's broken economy by reviving the promising EU trade deal Yanukovych derailed in favor of (now defunct) Russian bailout.
Still, some Ukrainians continue to rally in support of the fallen leader. In Crimea, a stubborn pro-Russia group is clashing with anti-Yanukovych Muslims, though the main protest hub, Maidan, has been relatively calm for days. According to the Associated Press, the tensions explain why interim officials are concerned that the region, populated with ethnic Russians, might try to secede:
Crimean Tatars took an active part in the protest movement against Yanukovych and harbor deep resentment against the Kremlin, having been deported en masse on the orders of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during the World War II. "We will not let the fate of our land to be decided without us," said Nuridin Seytablaev, 54, an engineer. "We are ready to fight for Ukraine and our European future." Nearby, separated by police lines, Anton Lyakhov, 52, waved a Russian flag. "Only Russian can defend us from fascists in Kiev and from Islamic radicals in Crimea."
Russian statements in favor of the sympathetic protesters also raise fears that it will intervene militarily, though Russian officials have said this won't happen. As protests continue in Crimea, the interim government continues to make swift changes to Yanukovych's legacy. The country's acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov signed an order to dismantle the Berkut riot police, the unit fighting anti-government protesters during months of protests and days of violence. The interim government also charged Yanukovych and members of his cabinet with mass crimes, and hopes they will be tried by the International Criminal Court. So far, freed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and boxer turned opposition leader Vitali Klitschko have said they will run for early presidential elections in May.