Newly elected Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (left) watches TV in Kiev as ousted President Viktor Yanukovych addresses a press conference yesterday.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia: Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovych insisted on Friday that he had not been overthrown as he defiantly resurfaced in Russia from a week in hiding and savaged the new pro-Western powers in Kiev.
The deposed pro-Kremlin leader spoke hours after Ukraine’s pro-EU interim authorities said they had regained control of two Crimean airports seized during an “armed invasion” by Russian forces.
Yanukovych — sitting confident in a pressed suit with a dark blue tie in front of three Ukrainian flags — appeared before a swarm of reporters in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-On-Don, less than two hours’ drive from the border with Ukraine.
The 63-year old said he had arrived in Russia “thanks to a patriotically-minded young officer” after being “compelled to leave” Ukraine over security fears.
He vowed to continue to fight for Ukraine’s future while boycotting snap presidential polls the new Western-backed team in Kiev has set for May 25.
“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.
“I intend to continue the fight for the future of Ukraine against those who try to saddle it with fear and terror.” He called Ukraine’ new leaders “young neo-fascists” and blamed the “irresponsible policies” of the West for his country’s crisis.
Yanukovych also apologised to the Ukrainian people and said he would return once his safety could be guaranteed. “I am ashamed,” he said. “I did not have the strength to keep stability.”
He revealed that he had spoken by phone with—but had not met—Russian President Vladimir Putin, but voiced surprise that his ally had not yet spoken out on Ukraine since his flight.
Ukraine’s general prosecutor had earlier yesterday warned that Kiev would ask Moscow to extradite Yanukovych — accused of “mass murder” over carnage in Kiev that claimed nearly 100 lives last week.
Ukraine’s bloodiest crisis since its 1991 independence erupted in November when Yanukovych made the shock decision to ditch an EU trade pact in favour of closer ties with old master Russia.
In his address to reporters, which was broadcast live on Russian television and last for over an hour, Yanukovych said the Crimea tensions were a “natural reaction” to the “bandit-like” takeover of power but that the region must remain part of Ukraine.