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BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, March 5 2014

Picture courtesy of Fundacja ePaństwo

Thousands of documents float and sink in a remote reservoir not far from a grand 345-acre estate contained within a sprawling wrought iron fence.

As evocative as it may seem, this not the beginning of a spy thriller, but of Yanukovych Leaks, an online portal where the leaked documents have been uploaded by investigative journalists who say the extravagance detailed in those papers may prove ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's depth of corruption and possibly, much more.

On February 22nd, after the end of the Yanukovych government and his abrupt leave, the Mezhyhirya compound, his residence in the Kiev countryside, was opened to protesters, activists and journalists. This led to the discovery of more than 200 folders of documents detailing the former president’s activities.

As the papers were partly burnt or thrown in a nearby reservoir that connects to the Dnipro, the journalists started to work out a way to save, systematize and investigate the enormous amount of information. They then started publishing all the documents on a website, which they called Yanukovych Leaks. At the moment 2,960 documents as well as records and photos, can be viewed online. According to one of the founders, Natalie Sedletska, on February 25th, the website hit 1.5 million visits.

The Yanukovych Leaks working group, which includes Ukrainian journalists from the independent media and civil society members, is also composing an analytical report of the documents. (Dmytro Gnap, one of the founders, will speak at our conference PDF Poland-CEE, next week in Warsaw).

Among several signs of an opulent lifestyle (including a replica of a Spanish Galleon, a private zoo and a golf course), a group of journalists and activists discovered documents and financial records that could allegedly prove the corruption of Yanukovych and his staff.

But the first one, published on February 28th, provides an even more disturbing view of Yanukovych’s presidency.

The article, which reports on retrieved notes of the former president’s bodyguard, claims that the staff’s activities were apparently not limited to providing security to the president: “they might also have been involved in the severe beating of Tetyana Chornovol, a reporter known for her investigation of the personal wealth of Yanukovych and other top officials, on Dec 25 of last year. According to a handwritten notebook found on the scene obtained by, Kobzar had written notes of the attack,” wrote Radio Free Europe’s Natalie Sedletska and Anna Babinets, from Hromadske.TV

Chornovol, a vocal opponent of the former government who had reported on its lavish lifestyle, was assaulted and severely beaten on Christmas Eve, 2013. According to the New York Times, “footage from a video camera on the dashboard of Ms. Chornovol’s car that was posted on the news website Ukrainska Pravda showed a prolonged cat-and-mouse chase, [...] repeatedly chasing her down and ramming into her." Her assailants were never found.

But there are more revelations coming.

According to the article, other documents reveal the best spots for snipers near the monument in Kyiv’s downtown Pechersk district, a fact that would confirm that Yanukovych ordered the shooting of protesters, an accusation that the former president has denied.

In an interview to news channel Euronews, one of the Yanukovych Leaks members, journalist Oleksandr Akymenko declared, “The documents are very valuable. They could help prove corruption schemes used by Yanukovych personally, his team and his inner circle. They contain lots of data linked to various companies close to the residence and to him.”

If this is only the start of the information coming out of the Yanukovych leaks, corruption might even be one of the smaller charges made against Yanukovych, which may now include calculated killings of civilians.

Techpresident has a roundup of useful sources to follow the developments in Ukraine.

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