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Fugitive Ukrainian president shows up in Moscow

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File- This Feb. 19, 2014, file photo shows Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych addressing the nation on a live TV broadcast in Kiev, Ukraine. The fugitive president said in a statement published by three Russian news agencies that he is asking Russia’s protection from “extremists.” Yanukovych, who fled from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv last week, said in the Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, statement that he still considers himself to be the legitimate leader. (AP Photo/Andrei Mosienko, Pool, File)

File- This Feb. 19, 2014, file photo shows Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych addressing the nation on a live TV broadcast in Kiev, Ukraine. The fugitive president said in a statement published by three Russian news agencies that he is asking Russia’s protection from “extremists.” Yanukovych, who fled from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv last week, said in the Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, statement that he still considers himself to be the legitimate leader. (AP Photo/Andrei Mosienko, Pool, File)

The Ukraina Hotel is silhouetted against the evening sky in Moscow, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Ukrainian fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych asked Russia on Thursday to protect him from “extremists,” as a respected Russian news organization reported that he was seen in a Moscow hotel and was now staying in a Kremlin sanatorium just outside the city. Security at the Ukraina Hotel was unusually heavy late Wednesday, with police watching from parked vehicles outside and guards posted throughout the lobby. Some of Yanukovych’s allies, also reported to have been at the hotel, may have still been there. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A poster with a photo of fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the capital Kiev and went into hiding after months of protests against his government, is seen fixed onto a barricade in central Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Ukraine put its police on high alert after dozens of armed pro-Russia men stormed and seized local government buildings in Ukraine’s Crimea region early Thursday and raised a Russian flag over a barricade. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 file photo Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shows the way to his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Moscow on Wednesday granted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych protection “on the territory of Russia,” shortly after the fugitive leader sought help from the Kremlin, according to an official quoted by Russian news agencies. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool, file)

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MOSCOW (AP) — Ukraine’s fugitive president surfaced on Thursday in Moscow, where he was said to have been seen at an opulent five-star hotel and a Kremlin country retreat once favored by the late Boris Yeltsin.

Viktor Yanukovych reportedly was granted protection in Russia, but he has not received a warm reception. Although Russia still considers him the legitimate president of Ukraine, the Kremlin has treated him cautiously and portrayed him as a coward who betrayed those who stood by him.

Yanukovych made his appeal for protection in a written statement released simultaneously by two Russian state news agencies: “I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists,” he wrote. Shortly afterward, the same agencies quoted an unidentified government official as saying that the request had been “satisfied on the territory of Russia.” The ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies often are used by the government to issue official statements.

Since he was driven out of Ukraine’s capital nearly a week ago after three months of protests, Yanukovych had been on the run.

His last public appearance was Saturday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where he declared in a video address that he was still president and would not leave the country.

The opposition leaders who suddenly found themselves in charge of the country, however, said Yanukovych then promptly tried to fly out from Donetsk, also in eastern Ukraine, but was stopped by the border service. He then showed up on the Crimean Peninsula, where Russia has a naval base, according to the acting interior minister, who said Yanukovych and his remaining loyal guards were last seen driving away in three cars early Monday.

Yanukovych arrived in Moscow early Tuesday and checked into the Hotel Ukraina, according to the reliable RBK business daily, which said the information initially came from one of Russia’s wealthy businessmen and was confirmed by a government official.

By Wednesday, Yanukovych had moved to the Barvikha Sanitorium, a well-guarded compound just outside the city with a hotel, cottages and medical center run by the presidential administration’s property department, the report said. The spokesman for this department, Viktor Khrekov, told The Associated Press that he had no information about this.

RBK, however, cited an unidentified official in the presidential administration as saying that he had seen Yanukovych at Barvikha and he looked haggard and had lost weight. The report, written under the bylines of respected journalists with high-level contacts in business and government circles, could not immediately be confirmed.

A security guard turned away two AP journalists on Thursday as they approached the entrance to Barvikha. The gated compound was built in Soviet times as a place where ailing government officials could rest and receive medical care. Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet president, stayed there often as his health declined.

At the Hotel Ukraina, security was unusually heavy late Wednesday, with police watching from parked vehicles outside. Security guards posted at the door and throughout the opulent lobby tracked visitors and guests.

RBK, citing the presidential administration official, said Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka, was still at the hotel and had checked into the presidential suite. On the hotel’s website, the suite is described as meeting “the highest standards for security” and lists for about 340,000 rubles ($9,700) per night.

If he needs a new car, the hotel has a Rolls-Royce dealership on the ground floor.

Ukraine’s acting government has warrants out for the arrests of Yankovych and Pshonka in the shooting deaths of dozens of protesters in Kiev last week.

Anatoly Kucherena,

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