MINSK, Belarus (AP) – A court in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Thursday found former President Viktor Yanukovych guilty of treason and helping Russia annex the Crimean peninsula.
The Kiev court began reading out the verdict in Yanukovych’s case, a process that is expected to take at least the whole day. The judge already declared Yanukovych guilty of treason and premeditated actions to alter the country’s borders, and will rule later on the other charges.
Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014 as tensions in Kiev flared up following a deadly police crackdown on protesters calling for the president to follow through with an association agreement with the European Union. Yanukovych eventually surfaced in Russia and was tried in absentia.
The Kremlin has used a request by Yanukovych as one of the legal grounds to seize the Crimean peninsula and later formally annex it.
At a United Nations Security Council session on March 1, 2014, a Russian envoy had read out a request by Yanukovych to send Russian troops to Ukraine.
Yanukovych later said he did send a letter to Putin asking for military assistance, but claimed that that was not an official invitation for boots on the ground.
The annexation of Crimea triggered hostilities in eastern Ukraine where fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government troops has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Earlier in the trial, Yanukovych testified via video link from Moscow. His lawyer has said that the former president would not be able to follow the verdict because he is in hospital after sustaining injuries on a Moscow tennis court in November.
Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Yanukovych to 15 years in prison.