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Yanukovych's State-Appointed Lawyer Quits, Treason Trial Adjourned Till September

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (file photo)
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (file photo)

The state-appointed lawyer defending former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in his in-absentia treason trial has quit.

Vitaliy Meshechek told the judge at a hearing on August 17 that he was withdrawing, citing the "particular difficulty" of the case and saying he could not handle it properly without assistants.

Judge Vladyslav Devyatko accepted Meshechek's decision and said a new lawyer would be appointed to represent Yanukovych, who dismissed his own lawyers on July 6 and announced that he would not take part in what he called a politically motivated trial.

Yanukovych abandoned office in late February 2014 and fled to Russia in the face of protests triggered by his decision to scrap plans for a landmark deal with the European Union and improve trade ties with Moscow instead.

Dozens of people were killed when his government attempted to clamp down on the pro-European protests known as the Euromaidan.

Prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment for Yanukovych, who is accused of treason, violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and abetting Russian aggression.

After he fled, Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and fomented opposition to the central government in eastern Ukraine, where the ensuing war between Kyiv's forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,000 people.

At the hearing on August 17, the judge said that Yanukovych will be invited to participate in the trial again by means of an announcement in the media, the court's website, and letters to be sent to all known addresses for Yanukovych, including those in Russia.

Devyatko reiterated a previous ruling saying that Yanukovych can take part in the trial via video-link.

Yanukovych's lawyers have insisted that the court must formally ask Russia, where Yanukovych has been residing since February 2014, for assistance to set up a video-link for their client.

The court has rejected the request, saying that Yanukovych can take part via any video-link available on the Internet -- meaning that a formal request is not needed.

Devyatko adjourned the trial until September 6 and announced the dates of 12 more hearings for the period from September 7 to October 26.

With reporting by UNIAN and

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