Russia Agrees to Protect Embattled Ukraine President

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Moscow has accepted fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's plea for protection, a Russian official is quoted saying.

Three Russia news agencies quoted an unnamed official saying that Yanukovych's request for protection "was satisfied on the territory of Russia."

Yanukovych fled from Ukraine's capital Kiev last week, but stated Thursday that he still considers himself to be the country's legitimate leader.

A respected Russian news organization reports that he was seen in a Moscow hotel and is staying in a Kremlin sanatorium just outside the city.

Yanukovych has not been seen publicly since Saturday. While the West has recognized the new Ukrainian government, whose forces drove Yanukovych from power, Russia still considers him the legitimate president.

RBK reported Wednesday evening that Yanukovych was staying at the Barvikha sanatorium, which is run by the presidential administration's property department. The spokesman for this department, Viktor Khrekov, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he has no information about this.

The RBK report was impossible to confirm, but 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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman also said he had no information about Yanukovych's reported arrival in Moscow.

RBK said the information came from one of Russia's wealthiest businessmen and was confirmed by a government official, neither of whom was identified. The article was under the byline of respected journalists, including RBK's editor in chief Elizaveta Osetinskaya, who has high-level contacts in Russian business circles.

A woman walks past burnt trucks near Parliament in Kiev February 23, 2014.Credit: Reuters

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