A former Southland Times journalist on the front line of the bloodshed in Ukraine has told of watching as police fired on demonstrators, and of crowds swarming into the overthrown president's palace.
They found a huge galleon on a manmade lake, fake ruins, a private zoo and garages filled with cars, Jared Morgan said yesterday.
"What they saw there was absolutely unbelievable. It's an open secret he was corrupt, but this . . . it's unprecedented."
President Viktor Yanukovych is reported to have fled the capital, Kiev, for his stronghold in the east of the country, near the Russian border.
Mr Morgan has lived in Kiev since 2011, working for English-language magazine What's On Kiev.
During the past three months he has watched as protests in the centre of the capital escalated into violent, fiery clashes in which more than 100 protesters, as well as police officers, were killed.
He was in Independence Square on Thursday when the shots began to ring out. "Most of the time I actually felt pretty safe there. I was quite close to the front line when Molotovs were being thrown and felt safe [but] on Thursday morning, not particularly.
"I didn't see anything, but I heard it. The rest of the day was punctuated by the sounds of it."
There was a spontaneous outpouring of public grief and sadness at the funerals of the dead protesters.
"People here are not as brutal as they appear. It's a very steely facade but they are actually quite emotional - quick to anger, quick to sadden and quick to laugh."
The chanting of Orthodox priests at the funerals was incredibly moving, he said. "People were weeping. It was absolutely beautiful. At the same time there was a very deep running sentiment that somebody had to answer for this."
Since Mr Yanukovych fled Kiev, the parliament has announced a new interim prime minister and has freed imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. But the situation is fluid.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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