When Moscow-backed separatists were starting their war in east Ukraine last spring, the country’s main security agency sent a covert team to capture a rebel leader.
Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych has controversially spoken out from self-imposed exile in Russia, promising, exactly a year after he fled Kiev, to return to Ukraine to “ease people’s lives” and help stop the war.
A new Ukraine was born a year ago in the pro-European protests that helped to drive President Viktor F. Yanukovych from power.
And today, the spirit that inspired hundreds of thousands to gather in the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, is stronger than ever, even as it is under direct military assault from Russian forces supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Ashen-faced after a sleepless night of marathon negotiations, Viktor F. Yanukovych hesitated, shaking his pen above the text placed before him in the chandeliered hall.
This is what former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, subsequently driven from office by mass protests in Kiev, said to German Chancellor Angela Merkel just one year ago, at the start of the crisis.
Less than a year ago, Viktor Yanukovych was not yet the disgraced former president of Ukraine and ruled over his impoverished but peaceful nation from Mezhyhirya, his sprawling residence outside Kiev.
It was supposed to become a Museum of Corruption, a triumphant trophy of Ukraine’s February revolution and a monument to its new leaders’ determination to uproot the lawlessness and avarice that blighted this country’s first two decades as an independent nation.
Mr Yanukovych fled Mezhyhirya on February 22nd under the cover of night.
Since then, it has become an open-air museum of the trappings of corruption: at weekends families stroll the manicured grounds and take pictures in front of Mr Yanukovych’s vintage-car collection and ostrich zoo.
Jasmina Tešanović ventures into the "Palace of Corruption" where deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych partied and gloried in graft while the EuroMaidan raged on his doorstep. Tešanović was in Serbia when Milosevic was deposed, and she reflects on the careers of post-Soviet dictators.