The house! You know the mansion that Victor Yanukovych, overthrown president of Ukraine, lived in until a week ago? The one with gold-footed toilets, crystal-laden chandeliers, 6,700 square feet of space, on a modest 17 acres of lovely countryside?
Turns out it was a fixer-upper.
This is sure to make Ukrainians feel better. After the former president fled last weekend and ordinary people saw the house, they got angrier than ever about the billions they say were looted from the national treasury. If only they had known.
Yanukovych gave a news conference Friday from the safety of Rostov-on-Don, a Russian city about 185 miles from the Ukrainian border. He assured reporters that there was nothing untoward about his mansion. It only cost a measly $3.2 million.
He had moved to the house outside of Kiev, in 1999, he said and later former president Leonid Kuchma told him he should stay there for security reasons.
“When new authority came, they tried to evict me from that house, but eventually there was a proposal that I buy it,” he said.
He said he scraped together his life savings, sold all of his belongings, bought it for $3.2 million, and stayed on when he became president in 2010.
“That house was too old,” he said. “I had to repair it.” And not all of it was his, he said. Perhaps he was referring to the various guest houses. (He said he needed a place to work.) Or maybe he meant the rows and rows of expensive and antique cars, the shiny motorcycles. (He said he had to get back and forth to Kiev.)
Accusing him of wanton luxury? His enemies were trying to discredit him, he said.
“I have never had any foreign property,” he said. “I have never had any foreign accounts. I declared everything on my taxes.”
And just you wait, he said. Lawyers were heading to court, and they intended to return the property to its rightful owner.
Ukrainians had other thoughts. “Delusional,” one tweeted.