Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow Natalie Sedletska has been combing through a soggy paper trail left by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych when he fled to Russia in February.
Sedletska has been working for with a team of journalists and investigators from the post-Yanukovych government pouring over hundreds of potentially incriminating documents left behind at Yanukovych’s lavish residence. The crates of records were found floating in a reservoir near the grounds, an apparent attempt by Yanukovych’s fleeing aids to destroy them.
The team have dried, photographed and posted the first 500 documents on a special website, Yanukovychleaks.org
, to make them widely available to journalists and the public. Already they have uncovered heaps of invoices showing the cost of Yanukovych’s extravagant tastes
, as well as black-lists of political rivals and journalists, and records of questionable business dealings by members of the Yanukovych family.
In a video interview with RFE/RL, Sedletska discussed some of the more dramatic discoveries the team has made so far.
"These documents are the biggest proof we have of Yanukovych and his regime's corruption," Sedletska told “The Guardian
.” "There is evidence not only of the dispossessed president's extravagant and luxurious lifestyle here, but also of the culture of bribery, corruption and nepotism."
Sedletska said among the records of payments for the residence’s ostentatious decore, the team has found a two million dollar expenditure for a sauna complex, as well as millions of dollars in cash payments. “Bribes—what else?” Sedletska said.
Sedletska has been at the center of the public information campaign unfolding in Ukraine since the “Euromaidan
” demonstrations began in late November. At that time it was almost unimaginable that within a few months’ time she would be spending day and night at the President’s residence with unlimited access to a treasure trove of documents on his financial dealings.
WATCH: Sedletska Profiles RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service Maidan and Crimea Coverage
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In an interview with Public Radio International
Sedletska emphasized the importance of preserving the documents and making them available to the public.
“We just want to show everything,” said Sedletska, “I’m really looking forward to that moment when we will upload the last document and we will start to do our job, which is investigative journalism and we will publish our stories. I believe in that.”