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Yanukovich’s luxury life mirroring Qaddafi?

IN PICTURES: Both Ukrainian and Libyan former leaders had their luxurious compounds ransacked by protesters

Eman El-Shenawi

Published: Updated:

Scenes of Ukrainian protesters flooding into the luxurious private residence of former President Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday were reminiscent of similar snapshots taken in Libya three years ago.

Pictured roaming the sprawling country estate, home to marble-line mansions, a private golf course and a zoo, the Ukrainian protestors mirrored Libyan rebels seen in similar images in 2011, when they surged into compound of slain dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The rebels had raised their oppositional flags and ransacked his living quarters as Qaddafi’s lifestyle of opulence and surreal fantasy unraveled.

Similar to Yanukovich’s residence, Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound featured eccentric sights; a zoo, a mini-fairground, ornate statues and furniture, and while there was no golf course, Libyan rebels rode around on a golf cart popularly used by Qaddafi.

On Saturday, the lavishness of Yanukovich’s residence shocked protesters and journalists, who roamed around his abandoned property some 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Kiev after it was taken by the demonstrators.

Comparisons have already been made between the two former leaders.

Comparing compounds

"I saw Qaddafi's compound in Tripoli. Admittedly it had been utterly trashed. But it wasn't as opulent as Yanukovich's. Yanuk had a galleon!" tweeted BBC correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse.

British blogger William M. Connolley wrote: “Crowds descend on Yanukovich house where they find the usual opulence; somewhat reminiscent of Qaddafi; I was cautiously hopeful then but I’ll hope the Ukrainians manage better.”

And ties to the Libyan leader, who died in October 2011 after he was battered and paraded through the streets of Sirte by rebels, were even made by Ukrainian protesters.

“Elections in December are not enough. He has to leave now. Otherwise he could end up like Gaddafi or Ceausescu,” demonstrator Oleh Bukoyenko told Britain’s The Telegraph earlier this week.

Parallels between the Ukrainian and Libyan leaders provide “a deep understanding about the mix between politics and corruption," Ibrahim Sharqieh, a conflict resolution analyst at the Brookings Doha Center, told Al Arabiya on Sunday.

“Evidently, there are personal benefits that exist behind their resistance to change – it’s not only about politics, there’s a personal interest at stake that’s associated to the luxury material that they have.

“This also gives a clear message to other dictatorships. Sooner or later the people will stand against such dictators and the iron fist that they tried to use will not prevent the people from reaching them.

“The eccentric side reflects on their personalities and the hunger they have for power and money. They seem to depend on this until the last minute,” added Sharqieh.

On Sunday, Ukrainian parliament speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, was appointed as interim president, a day after they voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovich following three months of protests.

Yanukovich abandoned the capital for eastern Ukraine and denounced what he called a "coup d'etat."

Following the entrance into his empty private residence, questions arose over his wealth.

Official declarations state that Yanukovich’s salary as president was around $100,000 a year but luxury of the estate clearly showed wealth far beyond that.

“I am in shock,” retired military servicewoman Natalia Rudenko told Agence France-Presse, as she looked out over the manicured lawns studded with statues of rabbits and deers.

“In a country with so much poverty how can one person have so much -- he has to be mentally sick.

“The world needs to see this and bring him to justice.”