By Katya Golubkova
MOSCOW Feb 27 Viktor Yanukovich said on
Thursday he was still president of Ukraine and warned its
"illegitimate" rulers that people in the southeastern and
southern regions would never accept mob rule.
In a statement sent to Russian news agencies from an unknown
location, Yanukovich railed against the "extremists" who had
stolen power in Ukraine, threatened violence against himself and
his closest aides and passed "illegal" laws.
Almost a week after he was toppled by violent protests
against widespread corruption in the former Soviet state,
Yanukovich's whereabouts are still unknown after he fled the
Ukrainian capital Kiev.
The 63-year-old is now wanted in Ukraine on charges of mass
murder over the police shooting of demonstrators, and Russian
and Ukrainian media have speculated he may have travelled to
Moscow, although that could not be confirmed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said he had no
information and could not comment on Yanukovich's statement.
"I, Viktor Fedorovich Yanukovich appeal to the people of
Ukraine. As before I still consider myself to be the lawful head
of the Ukrainian state, chosen freely by the will of the
Ukrainian people," he was quoted as saying.
"Now it is becoming clear that the people in southeastern
Ukraine and in Crimea do not accept the power vacuum and
complete lawlessness in the country, when the heads of
ministries are appointed by the mob."
Armed men seized the regional government headquarters and
parliament in Ukraine's Crimea and raised the Russian flag,
alarming Kiev's new rulers, increasingly concerned by
sabre-rattling in Moscow.
In a show of strength, Putin has ordered surprise military
training in its central and western regions, the latter of which
borders Ukraine, and on Thursday the Defence Ministry said it
had put warplanes along its western borders on combat alert.
Military analysts in Russia said there was little danger of
"The importance of the (naval) base in Crimea is absolutely
incomparable to the colossal international damage that Russia
would face in the case of military intervention," said Defence
analyst Alexander Golts.
Some said Yanukovich's statement showed a man still more
concerned with his own personal safety than that of his fellow
countrymen. Ukrainian opposition leader Arseny Yatseniuk,
proposed to head the new interim government, said Yanukovich was
no longer president, rather a "wanted man".
Yanukovich said much of Ukraine had been enveloped by an
"orgy of extremism" and he and his closest aides had been
"I have to ask the Russian authorities to provide me with
personal safety from the actions of extremists."
Interfax news agency quoted a source in the authorities as
saying Moscow would ensure Yanukovich's safety on Russian
"In connection with the appeal by president Yanukovich for
his personal security to be guaranteed, I report that the
request has been granted on the territory of the Russian
Federation," the source was quoted as saying.
Yanukovich also cast doubt on any of the new legislation
being pushed through the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna
Rada, saying many members of his party, the Party of the
Regions, were too scared to turn up.
"The decisions being taken by parliament are illegal, they
are being taken when many members of the Party of the Regions
are absent, and people from other factions, who are scared for
their security," he said.
He pushed an argument supported by Russia that a short-lived
agreement mediated by the European Union on Friday envisaging a
power-sharing arrangement and a new presidential election by
December still held.
"In this situation, I officially declare my determination to
fight until the end for the honouring of the important
compromise agreements to bring Ukraine out of its deep political
crisis," he said.