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Avakhov published a letter that he said was from Yanukovych, dated Monday, in which he gave up his security guard. Yanukovych’s aides and spokespeople could not be reached Monday to verify the reported letter — they have been rapidly distancing themselves from him as his hold on power disintegrates.

Activist Valeri Kazachenko said Yanukovych must be arrested and brought to Kiev’s main square for trial.

“He must answer for all the crimes he has committed against Ukraine and its people,” he said, as thousands continued to flock to the area to light candles and lay flowers where dozens were shot dead during clashes with police last week. “Yanukovych must be tried by the court of the people right here in the square.”

Tensions have been mounting in Crimea in southern Ukraine. Russia maintains a large naval base in Sevastopol that has strained relations between the countries for two decades.

Pro-Russian protesters gathered in front of city hall in the port of Sevastopol on Monday chanting “Russia! Russia!”

“Extremists have seized power in Kiev and we must defend Crimea. Russia must help us with that,” said Anataly Mareta, head of a Cossack militia in Sevastopol.

The head of the city administration in Sevastopol quit Monday amid the turmoil, and protesters replaced a Ukrainian flag near the city hall building with a Russian flag.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on the turmoil in Ukraine will be crucial to the future of Crimea and to Ukraine. Putin spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by telephone Sunday and the German government said the two agreed that Ukraine’s “territorial integrity must be respected.”

On Monday, German government spokesman Steffan Seibert told reporters that Ukraine’s new leaders should consider the interests of the south and east — the pro-Russian sections of Ukraine — in the composition of a new government. He also said the offer of an association agreement with the EU is still on the table.

As president, Yanukovych moved quickly to consolidate power and wealth, curb free speech and oversee the imprisonment of his top political rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. But as protesters took control of the capital over the weekend, many allies turned against him.

Yet Yanukovych has proved politically resilient in the past. In Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, when protesters pressed for democratic reforms, his fraud-ridden victory in presidential elections was overturned. He soon came back as prime minister and then was elected president in 2010, riding on a wave of popular disappointment in the squabbling Orange team.

But Yanukovych’s archrival Tymoshenko, the blond-braided heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, is back on the political scene after having been freed from prison.

The current protest movement in Ukraine has been in large part a fight for the country’s economic future — for better jobs and prosperity.

Ukraine has a large potential consumer market, an educated workforce, a significant industrial base and good natural resources, in particular rich farmland. Yet its economy is in tatters.

Ukraine has struggled with corruption, bad government and short-sighted reliance on cheap gas from Russia. Political unrest has pushed up the deficit, sent the currency skidding and may have pushed the economy back into a recession.

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