Breaking Travel News investigates: Inside the palace of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine
The home of former president Yanukovych is now open to the public

Breaking Travel News investigates: Inside the palace of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine

Every tourist is keen to see something off the beaten track, away from the standard churches, markets, and monuments.

Kiev, capital of Ukraine, has just the thing; the private home of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Swept from power during the Euromaidan Revolution of 2014, the despotic leader was forced to flee to Russia, seeking exile under his patron Vladimir Putin.

He left behind his recently completed mega-mansion, which has been open to the public ever since.

Now controlled by Right Sector - a far-right Ukrainian nationalist political party – the premises receives dozens of visitors each day.

Arriving in spring this year, it is everything you might expect – grand, sumptuous, and extravagant.

The property is just half an hour drive from the centre of Kiev, located in the Mezhyhirya suburbs of the city.

On approach, keep an eye out for the central lane painted on the road leading to the house - reserved exclusively for use by the presidential motorcade.

Around 20 Right Sector guides greet guests, charging each UAH300 (£10) for entry to the gardens and house.

Inside the decoration is, sadly, not as gaudy as one might hope - certainly nothing compared to the chintzy opulence currently being popularise by US president Donald Trump.

Nonetheless, things are pretty grand, taking on the feel of a luxury hotel.

Naturally there is a full size tennis court, boxing ring, and snooker table, while a golf course sits in the north of the grounds.

All, apparently, were underused during Yanukovych’s brief residence here, with the former leader spending much of his time in the television suite.

In keeping with the hotel feel, there is a spa with four treatment rooms, a fully operational dentist, and even a salt room, designed to treat respiratory problems.

Our guide, no doubt feeling like a successful estate agent, informs us the house cost €4 million a month to run.

Most of this probably went on cleaning the 100+ rooms.

Any self-respecting despot will tell you how important secret tunnels are, and the Yanukovych-mansion doesn’t disappoint.

A long, winding, and surprisingly ornate passageway links the two halves of the estate, giving visitors a chance to feel like a Bond villain as they pass through.

Emerging in the house-proper, the large, sweeping living quarters are covered in gold and offer views over the surrounding gardens.

A desk fit for a president sits in an adjacent side-room, with the Yanukovych coat of arms hanging nearby.

One of the odder elements of a visit is the collection of caged birds dotted around the place.

Rather than being a hobby of the deposed dictator, as I had assumed, they have instead been placed there by the Red Sector guides.

Apparently they represent rebirth, of a house, and a country.

Upstairs two main bedrooms have walk in closets bigger than the majority of London flats.

A €250,000 chandelier hangs in the entrance foyer, right next to the private chapel.

We are told a priest visited daily, no doubt in an attempt to sooth the conscience of the man who would later be driven from the house by his enraged compatriots.

Ukrainian museums have taken control of the artworks that had dotted the walls, preserving them for the nation.

But overall it is surprising how undamaged the house is.

It must have taken a great deal of restraint not to have burned the place to the ground when first revolutionaries arrived and realised the level of luxury being enjoyed by the president at the expense of the Ukrainian people.

The tour takes around an hour and guests are invited to walk the grounds at their leisure afterwards, marvelling at the sheer scale of the place.

Sadly for Yanukovych, he never had much time to enjoy it.

Having been completed only in 2012, he was hightailing it to Russia just two years later.

Chris O’Toole