Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich sentenced to 13 years in prison
A Kyiv court has sentenced Viktor Yanukovich, the former president of Ukraine, to 13 years in prison. Yanukovich was convicted of treason and of complicity in the initiation of an aggressive war. He was acquitted of violating a statute concerning infringement on Ukrainian territorial sovereignty.
The Obolonsky District Court wrote that the former president was guilty of “aiding a foreign government — specifically, the Russian government — in conducting seditious operations against Ukraine.” His sentence is set to begin from the moment of his arrest.
However, when or whether that arrest will take place is far from certain. Since 2014, Yanukovich has resided in Russia, and both his trial and his sentencing took place in absentia. Federal prosecutors in Russia have already refused a request for the Ukrainian ex-president’s expatriation, saying the charges against him are politically motivated.
According to the BBC’s Russian Service, Yanukovich’s attorneys have vowed to challenge the ruling in both Ukrainian and international court. Alexander Goroshinsky, who is one of those attorneys, reportedly called the decision “a PR stunt, an attempt at agitation designed for the current election campaigns by individual interested parties.” Presidential election campaigns are ongoing in Ukraine, with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko leading recent polls.
Yanukovich’s defense may find a legal opening in the system of laws that governs in absentia criminal cases, which the Ukrainian government has introduced only in recent years. Sergei Gorbatyuk, who leads the special investigations department of Ukraine’s prosecutorial arm, told the BBC he believes those laws are written such that Yanukovich and his attorneys might receive a favorable ruling in the European Court of Human Rights.
Nonetheless, this sentence may not be the Ukrainian government’s final attempt to bring Yanukovich into its custody. The country’s lead prosecutor, Yury Lutsenko, has previously stated that this case would be followed by another trial concerning Yanukovich’s potential involvement in violent repressions of the 2014 Euromaidan protests.