Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's pro-Russia former president, has again rejected his conviction by a Ukrainian court on charges of high treason over attempts to quash a 2014 pro-Western uprising known as the Maidan protests.
Speaking at the Moscow headquarters of Russia's state-run Rossiya Segodnya media agency, Yanukovych told journalists on February 6 that the verdict and 13-year prison sentence against him at his trial in absentia was "written on the instructions of the [Ukrainian] authorities."
He said pressure on the Kyiv court had been "unprecedented."
Judge Vladyslav Devyatko, of Kyiv's Obolon district court, announced the Kyiv court's January 24 ruling that Yanukovych "committed a crime against the foundation of Ukraine's national security" and was found guilty of "complicity in waging an aggressive war against Ukraine."
Yanukovych abandoned his office in late February 2014 and fled to Russia in the face of growing protests triggered by his decision to abandon a landmark trade deal with the European Union and, instead, pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer trade ties with Russia.
He fled Ukraine just days after dozens of people were killed in and around Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, when his government attempted to clamp down on pro-EU demonstrations.
Altogether, more than 100 people were killed and more than 1,100 people injured in clashes between Maidan protesters and Yanukovych's security forces. Some were shot dead by snipers.
The dead included 13 members of Yanukovych's security forces.
Yanukovych's ouster was soon followed by Russia's seizure and forcible annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support from Moscow for pro-Russia separatists fighting against Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.
Yanukovych denies the charges against him, contending that the case against him was politically motivated.
"The verdict has nothing to do with the law," Yanukovych told journalists in Moscow on February 6.
"Everything [in the case] was built up on lies and hatred," he said. "The mass shootings at the Maidan were organized by the Maidan's masterminds."
"An independent group must be established to investigate the crimes on the Maidan," Yanukovych said on February 6.
He said such an investigatory group should include "the countries that mediated agreements" between his government and opposition leaders in 2014 before his ouster. Those countries included Russia, France, Germany, and Poland.
"If such a group had started investigations five years ago, there would have been no catastrophe," Yanukovych said, claiming that there "most likely would not have been war" in eastern Ukraine and that "the situation in Crimea would have been different."
Yanukovych also claimed on February 6 that European leaders "double-crossed me, betrayed me" and "were and remain responsible" for what happened in Ukraine in 2014.
"I would like them to answer my questions publicly," he said. "Why have I not received any answers from the leaders of those [European] countries to my questions? I have been asking them for many years."