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Ukraine's acting president heads armed forces

Reuters

Ukraine's presidential website has announced that acting president Oleksander Turchinov has assumed the duties of head of the armed forces.

Acting President Oleksander Turchinov. (Reuters)

Ukraine's acting President Oleksander Turchinov assumed the duties of head of the armed forces, the presidential website stated in a decree on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, ousted president Viktor Yanukovich was reportedly on the run on Monday​, possibly somewhere in southern Ukraine, hunted by police for "mass murder" linked to the revolt against his rule in which scores have been killed.

Yanukovich (63), accompanied only by his chief aide and a handful of security guards at the time, was known to have been in the pro-Russian Crimea at midnight on Sunday after zig-zagging furtively around eastern Ukraine in a bid to find a safe haven.

But he and his entourage drove off to an unknown destination, having shut down their communications systems in a move to avoid being tracked, Ukraine's interim interior minister Arsen Avakov said. "An official case for the mass murder of peaceful citizens has been opened," the minister wrote on Facebook. "Yanukovich and other people responsible for this have been declared wanted."

People shot dead
It was an ignominious political end for Yanukovich who has been publicly deserted by some of his closest erstwhile allies, stripped of his luxury residence outside Kiev and has had to witness the return of his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko.

Andriy Klyuev, a minor oligarch who was Yanukovich's head of administration, appeared to be the only person left standing by Yanukovich's side. He was still with his boss, Avakov said.

More than 80 people were shot dead in the capital Kiev last week, most of them anti-government protesters, in a bloody climax to a three-month, largely peaceful, campaign against Yanukovich's policies, known as the "Euro-maidan".

Dumped by his closest allies and backers after violence that shocked the world, Yanukovich fled Kiev by helicopter on Friday – the day when the "Euro-maidan" told opposition leaders they rejected a deal they had done with him and demanded he immediately stepped down.

Defiant message
Avakov said he flew to Kharkov, 500km to the east where he stayed overnight in a state residence and recorded a defiant video message denouncing Ukraine's new leaders as "bandits".

He said he still regarded himself as the country's legitimate president and would try to defend his allies against unjust persecution. – Reuters

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