Ukraine Issues Arrest Warrant for President

Ukrainian interim authorities issue arrest warrant for President Viktor Yanukovych, seen in Crimea.

A sticker depicting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is placed on a burned military truck on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine.

A sticker depicting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is placed on a burned military truck on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine.

Associated Press + More

By YURAS KARMANAU and MARIA DANILOVA, Associated Press

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's acting government issued a warrant Monday for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych, last reportedly seen in the pro-Russian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, accusing him of mass crimes against protesters who stood up for months against his rule.

Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Yanukovych on trial, after a tumultuous presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and cracked down on protesters. Anger boiled over last week after snipers attacked protesters in the bloodiest violence in Ukraine's post-Soviet history.

[READ: Ukrainian Government Signs Peace Deal]

The turmoil has turned this strategically located country of 46 million inside out over the past few days, raising fears that it could split apart. The parliament speaker is suddenly nominally in charge of a country whose economy is on the brink of default and whose loyalties are torn between Europe and longtime ruler Russia.

"The state treasury has been torn apart, the country has been brought to bankruptcy," Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a leader of the protest movement and prominent lawmaker whose name is being floated as a possibility for prime minister, said in parliament Monday.

The acting finance minister said Monday that the country needs $35 billion (25.5 billion euros) to finance government needs this year and next and expressed hope that Europe or the United States would help.

Ukraine's acting interior minister, Arsen Avakhov, said on his official Facebook page Monday that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Yanukovych and several other officials for the "mass killing of civilians." At least 82 people, primarily protesters, were killed in clashes in Kiev last week.

Avakhov says Yanukovych arrived in Crimea on Sunday, relinquished his official security detail and then drove off to an unknown location, turning off all forms of communication. "Yanukovych has disappeared," he said.

[OPINION: Ukraine’s Long History With U.S. Political Consultants and Lobbyists]

Earlier, after signing an agreement Friday with the opposition to end a conflict that had turned deadly, Yanukovych had fled the capital of Kiev for eastern Ukraine. Avakhov said he tried to fly out of Donetsk but was stopped, then went to Crimea.

Tensions have been mounting in Crimea, where pro-Russian protesters gathered in front of city hall in the port of Sevastopol on Monday chanting "Russia! Russia!" Russia maintains a big naval base in Sevastopol that has tangled relations between the countries for two decades. The head of the city administration in Sevastopol quit Monday.

The tensions seem to be driven by Russia, though a representative of the pro-Moscow Russian Unity party played down fears that Crimea could secede, saying that they want to maintain ties with Moscow and a Putin-driven Customs Union but do not want Crimea to break away.

Yanukovych set off a wave of protests by shelving an agreement with the European Union in November and turning toward Russia, and the movement quickly expanded its grievances to corruption, human rights abuses and calls for Yanukovych's resignation.

[PHOTOS: Protests Turn Deadly in Ukraine]

"We must find Yanukovych and put him on trial," said protester Leonid Shovtak, a 50-year-old farmer from the western Ivano-Frankivsk region who came to Kiev's Independence Square to take part in the three-month protest movement. "All the criminals with him should be in prison."

Yanukovych has proved politically resilient, rising to top posts in Ukrainian politics despite two runs-in with the law during his youth for assault and robbery. He was humiliated in the 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned his fraud-ridden victory in presidential elections, but soon came back as prime minister and then as a legitimately elected president in 2010, riding on a wave of popular disappointment in the Orange team.

As president, Yanukvoych moved quickly to consolidate power, wealth, oversee the imprisonment of his top political rival Yulia Tymoshenko and curb free speech.