A SPRAWLING forested estate of graceful waterways and summer houses - half the size of Monaco but just one hour's drive from Kiev -stands as a symbol of the folly of Ukraine's fugitive president.

Even the most cynical Ukrainians, who have streamed in to see Viktor Yanukovich's luxury estate, rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they were confronted by the scale of the opulence he built around him and kept secret from the outside world.

There were Australian and African ostriches, stretching their legs. Deer and billy goats - their cages neatly labelled - were hunkered down, slightly alarmed at the number of sudden visitors.

Loading article content

All this in a country where the average salary is less than £300 a month.

Mr Yanukovich, 63, relaxed at weekends in luxury behind high walls patrolled by security guards.

When the dream ended and his staff fled the Gatsby-like mansion in the early hours of Saturday, the Kiev protest movement that had opposed him invited Ukrainians to go to see the opulence Mr Yanukovich lived in.

What they saw reflected more the inflated dreams of a Middle East potentate - with all the attendant obsessions with security - rather than a rough-hewn man from gritty eastern Ukraine who got to the top the hard way.

The presence of ostriches - labels said they were from Australia, Africa and South America - suggested a ­weakness for "nouveau riche" status symbols.