Ukrainian court orders ex-president's arrest in absentia on treason charge

FILE PHOTO: Viktor Yanukovich, the former president of Ukraine who was ousted by street protests and fled to Russia in 2014, speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) - A Ukrainian court on Monday ordered the arrest in absentia of former President Viktor Yanukovich, accusing him of treason over an agreement he signed in 2010 extending Russia's lease on naval facilities in Crimea.

The agreement, widely known in Ukraine as the Kharkiv Pact, allowed Russia to keep its Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Yanukovich, who fled to Russia in 2014 after mass protests, has already received a 13-year jail sentence in absentia for treason. That case was related to a letter he sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 1, 2014, asking him to use Russian army and police forces to restore order in Ukraine.

Yanukovich could not immediately be reached for comment. He has previously denied all allegations against him.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said a Kyiv court had on Monday ordered Yanukovich's arrest because the Kharkiv Pact had enabled Russia to increase the number of troops it had in Ukraine and to seize and annex Crimea in 2014.

Yanukovich's actions had violated the constitution and "to the detriment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the defence, state and economic security of Ukraine, provided assistance to a foreign state".

Ukrainian investigators told Yanukovich in January last year that he was suspected of treason over the Kharkiv Pact.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and has used the Black Sea Fleet to fire at Ukrainian targets in what Putin calls a "special military operation."

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage; editing by Grant McCool)

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