Ukraine’s new authorities have issued an arrest warrant for fugitive President Victor Yanukovych over “mass murder of peaceful civilians”.
Acting interior minister, Arsen Avakhov, made the announcement on his official Facebook page on Monday.
“Yanukovych must be tried by the court of the people right here in the square. He must answer for all the crimes he has committed against Ukraine and its people,” he said.
The ousted President’s last public appearance was in a televised interview Saturday from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, a base of his support, where he insisted he was still president and would not leave the country.
He then tried to fly out of Donetsk but was stopped and went to Crimea on Sunday, Avakhov said, where he freed his official security detail from its duties and drove to an unknown location, turning off all forms of communication.
Security has been tightened across Ukraine’s borders.
Meanwhile, the acting interior minister has declared the start of a presidential election campaign on February 25, with the voting set for May 25.
Russia and the West have sharply disagreed over the events in Ukraine. While Western countries have supported Ukraine’s new authorities and promised financial aid, Russia questioned their legitimacy and accused them of using “dictatorial” and “terrorist” methods to suppress dissent and infringe on the rights of ethnic Russians.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Russian foreign ministry lashed out at the West for pursuing “geopolitical self-interest” in Ukraine and advancing a “forceful regime change.”
Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said: “If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be the government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government.”
Russia warned Ukraine’s new leaders to heed the “concerns” of the Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, as well as the Crimea and Sevastopol.
An assembly of Ukraine’s eastern provinces on Saturday refused to recognise the legitimacy of the new authorities in Kiev. A 20,000-strong rally in Sevastopol on Sunday voted to replace a Kiev-appointed Mayor with Russian businessman Alexei Chaly and to stop sending their taxes to Kiev.
In another Crimean city, Kerch, protesters tore down the Ukrainian flag from the City Hall and replaced it with the Russian flag.
Protesters in both Crimean cities have set up self-defence forces to guard against possible moves by Kiev to crush their resistance. With Russia now likely to put on hold the disbursement of the remaining $12 billion out of its $15-billion bailout for Ukraine, the new leaders in Kiev have appealed to the West to drum up a huge rescue package.
Ukraine’s acting minance minister, Yuriy Kolobov, said the country needed $35 billion by the end of next year to avoid default. He called for an international donors’ conference involving representatives of the EU, the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund to come up with an emergency aid package.