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Yanukovych Denies Ordering Euromaidan Shootings; Kyiv Announces Treason Charge

  • RFE/RL

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych denied ordering police to fire on protesters during the violent demonstrations that roiled the country nearly three years ago and forced him to flee the country.

The statements -- made on November 28 via video link from Russia -- mark the first testimony from the 66-year-old given to a Ukrainian court over the violence in February 2014 that killed dozens.

Тhey also came as Ukrainian prosecutors used a pause in the proceedings in Kyiv on November 28 to announce formal treason charges against Yanukovych

"From the very beginning till the very end, I stood against bloodshed," Yanukovych said, speaking from the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, where he lives. "I am not capable of giving such orders."

Yanukovych was testifying as a witness in the trial of five former riot police officers accused of carrying out the shootings, which killed 82 protesters.

The former president, who is not on trial himself, had been scheduled to testify on November 25, but those proceedings were postponed after activists from the nationalist group Right Sector prevented the five defendants from being transferred to the Kyiv court. The five have pleaded not guilty.

WATCH: Yanukovych Denies Giving Order To Shoot

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko told the court on November 28 that Yanukovych has been formally charged with treason.

"You are suspected of treason, complicity with representatives of Russia's authorities with the aim of changing Ukraine's borders, violating Ukraine's constitution, and unleashing a war of aggression," Lutsenko said.

'Planned Operation'

In all, more than 100 demonstrators were killed during the protests that started in November 2013 after Yanukovych placed a cooperation agreement with the European Union on hold.

Weeks after Yanukovych fled Ukraine in late February 2014, Russian troops took control of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and began backing separatists in eastern Ukraine, sparking a conflict that has claimed more than 9,600 lives.

Yanukovych is already being investigated on suspicion of mass murder by Ukrainian officials.

Yanukovych told the court that the shootings on Independence Square were part of a "planned operation" to topple his government.

"The Maidan violence was a pseudo-operation to take power," Yanukovych was quoted as saying by Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

Lutsenko has said the Kremlin has allowed Yanukovych to be cross-examined merely as a public-relations stunt, pointing to Russian insistence that the testimony coincide with the third anniversary of the protests.

Moscow claims the uprising was orchestrated by the West and questions the legitimacy of Yanukovych's successor, Petro Poroshenko.

With reporting by TASS, Interfax, and Reuters
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