Russia urged not to inflame Ukraine crisis
As the attention in the Ukraine crisis turns to the Crimea region, US Secretary of State John Kerry urges Russia not to act.PT1M13S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-33s2s 620 349 March 1, 2014
Rostov-on-don, Russia: Deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych insisted Friday in his first public appearance since fleeing to Russia that he had not been overthrown and would continue to fight for the future of Ukraine.
Yanukovych told reporters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don that he had been "compelled to leave" Ukraine after he received threats to his security.
"I have not been overthrown by anyone, I was compelled to leave Ukraine due to an immediate threat to my life and the life of those close to me," he said, sitting at a desk alongside a senior editor from the ITAR-TASS news agency in front of three Ukrainian flags.
Defiant ... Ukraine's fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych gives a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia about 1000 kilometers from Moscow. Photo: AP Photo
"I intend to continue the fight for the future of Ukraine against those who try to saddle it with fear and terror."
Yanukovych, who fled after being impeached by parliament on Saturday, savaged the anti-Kremlin and pro-EU forces who have now taken power.
"Power in Ukraine has been taken by nationalist, pro-fascist young people who represent the absolute minority of people in Ukraine."
Unidentified armed men patrol outside of the Simferopol airport. Ukraine's interim government has accused Russia of staging an "armed invasion" of Crimea. Photo: AFP
"This is anarchy, terror and chaos," he added.
But Yanukovych, 63, speaking in Russian, said he wanted to apologise for leaving Ukraine in its current state.
"I am ashamed. I want to say I apologise to the Ukrainian people for what happened in Ukraine and that I did not have the strength to keep stability."
He blamed the "irresponsible policies" of the West for the crisis in the country and said he would not take part in "illegal" presidential election planned by Ukraine's new leadership for May 25.
Yanukovych said he spoke by telephone to Russian President Vladimir Putin after arriving in the country but had not yet met with the Kremlin chief.
He said such a face-to-face meeting was planned in the future. Yanukovych said he was surprised that Putin had not yet spoken out on Ukraine since his flight.
“When I ended up in Russia, I had a phone call with him,” Yanukovych said. “We agreed once the president of Russia has an opportunity, we will meet, but I don’t know when this will happen.”
Yanukovych said he could understand the anger of citizens in Ukraine's pro-Russian region of Crimea against the new Ukrainian authorities.
"I consider that what is happening in Crimea is an absolutely natural reaction to the bandit-like takeover that happened in Kiev."
He said he still saw himself as the Ukrainian president and as such believed that Crimea must remain part of Ukraine.
'Russia cannot stand aside'
However, the ousted Ukrainian president said he had no intention of asking for Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
Speaking in Russian at a news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on–Don, Yanukovych insisted he remains the legitimate president of Ukraine and that he did not order police to fire on demonstrators. He said Russia should intervene in the Ukrainian crisis, although he said he could not say how.
“It would not be correct on my part to say what Russia needs to do,” Yanukovych said in his first public appearance since he fled Ukraine, turning up in Moscow this week. “But Russia cannot stand aside, it cannot be indifferent to the destiny of such a big partner as Ukraine,” he said.
“Russia needs to use all the leverage it has to prevent the chaos and terror in Ukraine,” he added. “It’s hard for me to give any kind of tips. I do not accept any attempt at intervention that would violate the integrity of Ukrainian sovereignty.”
“I believe that Russia will act,” he said. “Since I know the character of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I am surprised he has kept silent. This is a big question.”
Yanukovych said he never ordered police to shoot at demonstrators in Kiev. Nearly 90 people were killed last week when security forces cracked down on anti-government demonstrators, opening fire on them in bloody street clashes.
He complained that an agreement he signed with opposition leaders on February 21 had not been enforced, talking as if the events of the last week — notably his ouster by a parliamentary vote and the selection of a new president and cabinet — had never happened.
“No one has deposed me,” he said. “I was forced to leave Ukraine because of the threat to my life and the lives of my relatives.”
How Yanukovych escaped to Russia
Yanukovych said he left the country by making his way by car from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine to the Crimean Peninsula, an autonomous region with a largely pro-Russian population.
“Here’s how I came to Russia,” he said. “I came here thanks to patriotically minded officers. That’s how I’m going to put it. They did their duty and they helped me stay alive.”
Yanukovych said he was in Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border, because he had a friend who lives near there.
Authorities in Switzerland and Austria, meanwhile, moved Friday to block any assets that Yanukovych and his son Aleksander might have hidden in those countries, news agencies reported. The Swiss launched a corruption investigation against them focused on what prosecutors described as “aggravated money laundering.”
Austria said it was freezing the bank accounts of the Viktor and Aleksander Yanukovych and 16 other people linked to Ukraine’s former government pending a European Union decision on whether to impose sanctions on them.
AFP, The Washington Post