Global Politics

How a team of Ukrainian journalists rescued documents from Yanukovych’s house

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Credit: Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters

People look through windows of the Mezhyhirya residence of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich as anti-government protesters and journalists walk on the grounds, outside Kiev.

Ukrainian journalist Natalie Sedletska has barely slept over the past five days.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

She has been at ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s residence, known as Mezhyhirya, drying and scanning a trove of documents that he left behind.

Drying, because file upon file was found submerged in what is called the “Kiev sea,” a large reservoir at the edge of Mezhyhirya.

“Divers had information that there were documents just floating in the river,” said Sedletska who reports for Radio Liberty. “Probably someone was trying to destroy papers and documents before leaving.”

Sedletska and more than a dozen other Ukrainian journalists from several different news organizations set aside analyzing the documents and fighting for a scoop to ensure the papers are preserved and published for the world to see.

They enlisted the help of archivists and librarians, who brought special heaters to dry the documents. Journalists separated each wet page and laid them all out to dry, taking a photo of each document. The documents that have already been dried are being housed inside a sauna in the residence.

The journalists created a website called Yanukovych Leaks to publish what they've collected.

“Now we are uploading, folder by folder, to this website,” Sedletska said.

The journalist also found an additional archive of documents in an office at the compound. Those documents are being scanned and uploaded as well. In these documents have been stories that range from the corrupt to the ridiculous, Sedletska said.

“We have found incoming checks of 100,000 euros by unknown investors,” she added. As for the ridiculous, the journalists found a report about an investigation of a missing kangaroo, presumably from Yanukovych’s private zoo that was discovered on his residence.

Everything, Sedletska emphasized, will be scanned and available for the general public to download and read.

“We just want to show everything,” said Sedletska,  “I’m really looking forward to that moment when we will upload the last document and we will start to do our job, which is investigative journalism and we will publish our stories. I believe in that.”

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