KYIV, Ukraine — Ask his critics, and they’ll tell you he pillaged his country, bullied political opponents and crushed popular protests.
But as far as ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is concerned, it’s Ukraine that owes him.
That’s why the fugitive autocrat — who was ousted during a street revolt in February 2014 before fleeing to Russia — is suing his own country at the European Court of Human Rights.
The reason? Well, human rights violations, of course.
According to his lawyers, Yanukovych faces unfair prosecution at home, where officials accuse him of corruption and of killing protesters.
“President Yanukovych’s right to a presumption of innocence has been violated by the numerous public and condemnatory statements made by senior state officials and prosecutors,” his firm, Joseph Hage Aaronson, said in a press release Monday.
“The statements are so broad and frequent as to undermine his presumption of innocence in relation to any criminal proceedings.”
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Most Ukrainians despise Yanukovych and his cronies for bleeding the country dry while living like royalty.
His massive private estate is now a major tourist attraction, and many were horrified when they discovered their looted tax dollars were spent on gaudy ornaments and accessories fit for an eccentric dictator.
A photo posted by Dan Peleschuk (@dpeleschuk) on
Shortly before he fled Ukraine during last year’s street revolution, Yanukovych is alleged to have ordered the lethal crackdown that left more than 100 protesters dead in the capital's Maidan. That set off a chain of events that led to a Russian-backed separatist insurgency on his home turf in eastern Ukraine.
But long before that, he’d earned a foul reputation for muzzling the press and jailing inconvenient rivals.
Yanukovych has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, insisting he’s being unfairly targeted.
News of the lawsuit drew jokes and ridicule over social media Monday. But it also highlighted Ukraine’s stalled efforts at prosecuting old Yanukovych allies and other corrupt former officials. That’s making the public angry at the authorities all over again.