Photos: Yanukovych’s lavish digs came complete with guard lion

PBS NewsHour producer Morgan Till and chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner have been reporting from Ukraine for the last week and a half. They have reported from Crimea where the region’s ethnic Russian majority voted to secede and join Russia; they traveled to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine where loyalties to both Ukraine and Russia run deep; and Monday night they reported from the capital Kiev, where Ukrainians have been rallying against Russian aggression.

Along the way the pair made a stop about 15 miles outside Kiev, to the site of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s splashy villa. The former leader was ousted from power in February under pressure from the opposition.

Till sent this notebook:

At the end of a road dotted with nouveau-riche McMansions, stands a wrought iron gate, a guard house with bullet-proof windows and security cameras and as clear a “No trespassing” sign as the modern world provides. What sits beyond — on 300-plus wooded acres, on a bluff overlooking a lake — is Mezhyhirya, the garishly opulent estate Viktor Yanukovych built over the years, through his time as Ukraine’s Prime Minister and President.

It is said that the property was once staffed with more than 350 workers, and cost $10 million a year to operate. Among its amenities: at least four opulent homes; a petting zoo with ostrich and antelope, peacocks and deer; an acre green house under glass that rivals most arboretums; a golf course; a helipad and hangar; docks for a private navy; and an entertainment center with bowling alley, pool hall, tennis court, gym and boxing ring.

Throughout, pictures of the former president in heroic poses abound. But today, an unpaid guard staff manages the grounds to ensure its preservation — as someone said to us, as a “monument to corruption.”