Ukrainian lawmakers attending a session at the Verkhovna Rada on February 21 may have been surprised to see speaker Volodymyr Rybak enter the chamber.
That's because news outlets the previous day had reported that Rybak had been seen boarding a plane
bound for Turkey.
Eyewitnesses said the 67-year-old Donetsk native -- a founding member of Yanukovych's Party of Regions -- was accompanied by family members carrying heavy suitcases.
Rybak now says he spent February 20 in bed with a fever.
However, charter flight records published on Twitter and by Ukrainian media suggest that dozens of Yanukovych allies appear to have fled -- or attempted to flee -- the country as the president's regime has grown increasingly shaky.
With the current death toll from protest violence at nearly 80, Yanukovych announced a peace deal on February 21, establishing early presidential elections, a national unity government, and reduced presidential powers.
Scores Of Flights
But even before Yanukovych revealed the terms of the deal, the prospect of such an outcome was reportedly enough to send regime stalwarts scurrying to Kyiv's Zhulyany airport, where records indicate that as many as 180 charter flights have been registered since February 19. (A roll call at the parliament session on February 21 showed only 131 of the Party of Regions' 204 deputies in attendance.)
One log, published online
, showed flights to international destinations as well as locations in Ukraine's Russian-speaking south and east. The destinations include Moscow, Frankfurt, Budapest, Istanbul, Kharkhiv, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, and Simferopol.
Many of the surnames on the passenger list appear to correspond to those of high-ranking members of the Yanukovych regime, as well as police officials and oligarchs.
For example, an afternoon flight to the Crimean city of Sevastopol on February 20 is registered under "Kaletnik +13," a possible reference to Deputy Parliament Speaker Ihor Kaletnyk.
There is also a flight to Zaporizhzhya registered under "Boguslayev V. A. +3" -- a possible reference to Party of Regions lawmaker Vyacheslav Boguslayev. A flight to Donetsk, registered under "Bakhteyeva +5," may be a reference to another Regions lawmaker, Tetyana Bakhteyeva.
Other media sources report that additional departees include: coal baron Ivan Avramov; the reputed right-hand man of Regions deputy Yuriy Ivanyushchenko; Zaporizhzhye regional deputy Vyacheslav Boguslaev; Maksym Lutskyy, the head of Kyiv's Solomensky regional administration; Regions deputies Tariel Vasadze and Yulia Levochkyna; and Andriy Tkachenko, the commander of the Berkut riot police in Dnipropetrovsk.
Ukrainian media is reporting that two of the regime's most controversial figures, Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka and Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, remain in Kyiv but have charter planes on standby.
It is not clear whether all departing planes are reaching their destination. At least one charter flight reportedly made it to the airspace of the Austrian capital
Vienna before being turned away and forced to return to Kyiv.
The apparent exodus of Yanukovych allies has sparked a number of arch comments on Twitter, with one observer noting, "It's a bad day for Yanik when his top thugs have to declare that they haven't fled Kyiv:"