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Citizens get first glimpse of Yanukovych’s residence

People walk the grounds of Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s countryside residence in Mezhyhirya. (Associated Press)
People walk the grounds of Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s countryside residence in Mezhyhirya. (Associated Press)

NOVI PETRIVTSI, Ukraine – The opulent residence of President Viktor Yanukovych has always been a closely guarded secret, and a symbol of the alleged corruption at Ukraine’s highest levels.

On Saturday, after he fled the capital and its gates were thrown open, thousands streamed into the compound to get a firsthand look.

Inside the walled compound known as Mezhyhirya, posh mansions stood amid manicured lawns. There were parks dotted with statues, ponds with fountains and wild ducks, a tennis court, a golf course and a colonnaded pavilion.

As throngs of ordinary Ukrainians got their first look at Yanukovych’s luxurious estate, many expressed disgust.

Vitali Rus, 31, and his wife Lilia, 28, both lawyers from Kiev, could not hide their feelings.

“It looks like a medieval pharaoh who had an entire empire working for him, who was spending all this tax money on himself,” Vitali said, holding his 3-year-old son, Artem. “When we saw footage from the residence of the British queen, we didn’t see such luxury as with this modern Ukrainian dictator.”

Some brought their children; one even brought his dog. They considered the tour a victory for anti-government demonstrators who fought street battles with police this week in which dozens were killed.

Associated Press

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