Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images, file
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych before the signing of the Agreement in the Presidential Palace on Feb. 21, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine.
A charter plane carrying embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has been blocked from taking off in the eastern city of Donetsk, border officials tell NBC News.
When officials tried to check the flight on Saturday, they were approached by a group of heavily armed men offering to pay in order to gain permission for take off without the necessary papers, border police spokesman Oleg Slobodyan told NBC News.
“They did not have any documents. They were armed. They did not introduce themselves. They offered money. They offered to settle the matter financially, so the plane would take off immediately,” Slobodyan said.
It was not clear where the flight was headed.
Yanukovych got off the plane and into a car after it became clear that officials would not bend the rules.
The group “then returned to the plane, sealed the hatches,” Slobodyan added. “Then two armored cars drove up to the plane. I am not sure if they were Mercedes cars, [but] they were armored. And Victor Yanukovich came off the plane.”
Yanukovych’s exact whereabouts and plans have been a mystery to most after he left Kiev on Saturday morning. On Sunday, the newly empowered legislature voted in an ally of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko as the country's interim president.
Yanukovych has not been spotted at border checkpoints since, Slobodyan said.
First published February 23 2014, 5:29 AM
Irina Tkachenko is a news producer for NBC News in Sochi, Russia.
She has worked as a producer for NBC News in Moscow, Russia. She has also worked for CBS News in Moscow and New York.