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Exiled Yanukovych Accepts Some Responsibility For Maidan Killings

"I did not give any orders [to use firearms]," Viktor Yanukovych told the BBC. "That was not my authority."
"I did not give any orders [to use firearms]," Viktor Yanukovych told the BBC. "That was not my authority."

Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych has said that he accepts some responsibility for the killings that led to his fall in February 2014.

"I don't deny my responsibility," he told BBC Newsnight on June 22, when asked about the shooting of demonstrators in Kyiv's Independence Square, known as the Maidan.

He never ordered the security forces to open fire, he said, but admitted he had not done enough to prevent bloodshed.

"I did not give any orders [to use firearms]. That was not my authority ... I was against any use of force, let alone the use of firearms. I was against bloodshed.

"But the members of the security forces fulfilled their duties according to existing laws. They had the right to use weapons," he said.

More than 100 protesters died in the clashes on Kyiv's central square, where huge crowds had confronted police for months.

A year after the bloodshed, some witnesses told the BBC that fatal shots had also been fired at the police.

On February 23, 2014, Yanukovych was whisked away by Russian special forces to a safe haven in Russia, where he remains in exile.

Within weeks, Russian troops in unmarked camouflage took over Ukrainian bases in Crimea. Then in April, pro-Russian rebels stormed government buildings in the heavily industrial Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, triggering civil war.

The war since then has claimed the lives of nearly 6,500 and driven more than 1 million people from their homes.

Yanukovych called the war a "nightmare" that became a reality.

Russia's annexation of Crimea was a "tragedy," which would not have happened on his watch, he said.

"What happened there was very bad. And we need, today, to find a way out of this situation. ... Now there is war. They talk about getting Crimea back. How? By war? Do we need another war?"

Yanukovych denied allegations that he had embezzled funds from the Ukrainian state and was hiding money in foreign bank accounts.

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His opulent residence outside Kyiv, thrown open to public gaze by protesters after he fled, did not belong to him personally, he said.

Receipts detailing millions of dollars spent on the complex were, he said, "political technology" and spin. The ostriches in the residence's petting zoo, he maintained, "just happened to be there."

"Yes, there was corruption; no one denies that. But a year and a half has passed. Those in power have all the means at their disposal. Show us, where are the bank accounts of Yanukovych? They don't exist and never have."

Interpol placed him on a wanted list in January, as Ukrainian officials accused him of embezzling millions of dollars.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin saved his life by ordering special forces to bring him to Russia.

"The fact that Vladimir Putin took that decision, on the recommendation of his own special forces, that was his right and his business. He did not consult me.

"I am, of course, grateful to him for giving the order and helping my security to get me out, and save my life," he said, adding that he believed his life was still in danger.

He said he still hoped one day to be able to return to Ukraine.

The Donbas region -- much of which is now controlled by separatists -- should remain part of Ukraine, he said, urging the United States and European Union to force Kyiv to negotiate directly with the rebel leaders. Those comments were in line with the Kremlin's position.

He said his opponents in Kyiv "should not have carried out a military coup -- they should not have drawn in radical far-right forces."

"I warned that they would not stop at Maidan -- that they would go further. And they went further. … They've broken up the country. They've drawn the whole world into this conflict."

With reporting by AFP
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