KIYIVPOST: Early on Feb. 23, a handful of journalists and activists hastily picked up soggy folders stuffed full of documents that contained some of the most guarded secrets in Ukraine during Viktor Yanukovych’s rule as president since 2010. They had been fished out from the Kyiv reservoir leading to the Dnipro River. Under protection from guards of the EuroMaidan revolution, who now control Yanukovych’s 140-hectare luxury compound 20 kilometers north of Kyiv, the journalists gathered the documents and created the online database yanukovychleaks.org. The documents were found in Mezhyhirya, the former president’s now-nationalized multimillion-dollar estate, which had been guarded like a fortress until Yanukovych fled in a hurry late on Feb. 21. The next day, he was impeached as president by parliament. Some 160 folders of his files were dumped hastily in the water on his way out, but were recovered quickly by divers.
Journalists are now looking for evidence of embezzlement and excess by Yanukovych and his cronies, corruption that, according to new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk on Feb. 27, cost Ukraine as much as $70 billion over the last three years. For many of the investigative journalists involved in the project, the findings are particularly precious because they had spent years digging for scraps of information about Mezhyhirya. Now they hit the jackpot: not only did they get to camp out in the estate, they were able to start assembling proof of illegal activities by a president who declared earnings of just $2.5 million in 2012.
The disgraced ex-president spared no expense to equip his house. Just one set of silverware, purchased in May 2012, cost Hr 923,000, including fish forks worth Hr 102,000. One set of curtains was purchased for 290,000 euros. A set of chandeliers was purchased for a whopping 39 million euros. His extravagant expenses included multiple houses, spa salons, gilded taps, antique icons and books, some of which looked to be pilfered from national collections, including Ukraine’s first printed book that dates to 1564, the Apostle. MORE