When Ukraine's former president Viktor Yanukovych was forced from power in February and fled the country, protesters stormed his palatial residence.

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People look through windows of the Mezhyhirya residence of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich in the village Novi Petrivtsi, outside KievReuters

Ordinary Ukrainians looked on in wide-eyed wonder and disbelief at the shameless display of kitsch opulence and excess in the ousted president's home.

Now the estate has been returned to public ownership and opened to the public as a museum.

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A guide stands in the grand foyer at Mezhyhirya, the private estate of former president Viktor YanukovychBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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A guide points out details in a private chapel at MezhyhiryaBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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Visitors pose for pictures on the bed of former Ukrainian president Viktor YanukovychBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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A guide stands in front of a suit of armour during a tour of MezhyhiryaBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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The main house, known as Honka, at Viktor Yanukovych's former private estate, which has been returned to state ownership and opened to the publicBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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Visitors take pictures of a stuffed lion at MezhyhiryaBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Hidden away in Mezhyhirya, an hour's drive from Kiev, the private retreat had been closed off to the public for nearly a decade during Yanukovych's presidency.

Set in 140 hectares of forest, it includes a golf course, helicopter pad, summer houses and exotic gardens, with ostriches, a private zoo, a garage filled with classic sports cars worth millions and a full scale ship converted into a restaurant.

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People look at part of Viktor Yanukovych's collection of antique carsBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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Viktor Yanukovych's former residence has its own bowling alley...Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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...and a boxing ringBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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A wedding party pose for pictures at MezhyhiryaBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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The estate has its own small private zoo...Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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...and a collection of exotic birds such as ostrichesBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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One of two dining rooms at MezhyhiryaBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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A loaf of bread made from solid gold that used to belong to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is displayed at MezhyhiryaBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images
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A chair in the former Ukrainian president's office is still wrapped in plastic for protectionBrendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Yanukovych spent weekends relaxing in the sprawling estate concealed behind high walls patrolled by armed security guards.