Thousands of people visited the mansion of ousted Ukrainian president Yanukovych on the 22nd of February in Mezhyhirya, a small village near Kyiv. Protesters found the property deserted and unguarded by protesters: CCTV videos shown how Yanukovych left his home by helicopter on the previous night, while his staff loaded trucks with his belongings. The quietness of the place, overlooking the river Dnepr amid a beautiful forest, is in radical contrast with the apocalyptic scenario of Maidan. The press, which rushed there expecting to attend a scene of rage and destruction, was surprised to find a great respect for what was now considered property of the people.
The 137-hectare property (for comparison’s sake, Monaco occupies 195 hectares) has, pretty understandably, become a symbol of Ukrainian corruption in high places. Known for his passion for extravagance, Ukraine’s former leader constructed an enormous and exotic residence, which included a private zoo, a golf course, a dog clinic, a shooting range, a garage complex for his collection of 70 cars and a helicopter pad.
Only legends existed about the lavishness of Yanukovych mansion, but a five-meter high wall surrounding the property and a no-fly zone above protected by anti aircraft missiles, kept the curious away. In December, Tetiana Chornovol, an investigative journalist, was found savagely beaten after she spent three years to reconstruct how the president could live in such a place with the little money he declared to earn. Being once a summerhouse of the Communist Party elite, and then a State recreation complex, Mezhyhirya was privatized by Yanukovych through a dummy corporation, Tantalit, and a sophisticate money laundering through Austria, London and Liechtenstein.
The property was returned to the government on the 23rd of February after a Parliamentary decision and temporarily placed under guard of self-defence units of Maidan and police to avoid looting. Meanwhile several proposals have been made for its future use, including a museum of corruption and its conversion to a rehabilitation centre for children.