* Yanukovich appears in public second time since ouster
* Asserts still sole legitimate president of Ukraine
* Says U.S. law prevents it from giving financial aid
By Denis Pinchuk
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, March 11 Ousted leader
Viktor Yanukovich insisted on Tuesday that he remained Ukraine's
legitimate president and commander-in-chief, saying he would
return to Kiev and appealing to the armed forces to defy any
"criminal orders" handed down by his foes.
In a defiant statement delivered in Russia, to where he fled
last month, Yanukovich attacked what he called the "band of
ultranationalists and neo-fascists" that have replaced his
government, and criticised their Western backers.
"I want to ask the patrons of these dark forces in the West:
Have you gone blind? Have you forgotten what fascism is?"
Yanukovich told reporters in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don
in his second such appearance since his overthrow on Feb. 22.
"I am certain the officers and soldiers of Ukraine ... know
what you are worth and will not carry out your criminal orders,"
said Yanukovich, who claims opposition forces shot police and
civilians during protests that led to his downfall.
He said those who seized power who would answer for their
orders to shoot at people.
The former opposition leaders who came to power after his
overthrow, which followed three months of demonstrations against
his decision to spurn pacts with the European Union and draw
closer to Russia, blame government forces for the deaths.
Yanukovich made his appeal to the army after Ukraine's
acting president told parliament of plans to raise a new
national guard to protect against internal and external threats.
He said Ukraine's current leaders "want to include fighters
from nationalist organisations into the armed forces, put
weapons in their hands" and "unleash civil war".
Turning to politics, he said a May 25 presidential election
that Western governments hope will help cement the political
change in Ukraine would be "illegal and illegitimate", and said
he would return to Kiev "as soon as circumstances allow".
"I'm sure the wait will not be long," he said.
"I AM ALIVE"
That was a bold promise for a man whose authority has been
dismissed by the West and questioned by Russia, and who began
his statement by saying simply that he was still alive. At the
end, he strode from the room without taking questions.
The upheaval in Ukraine has escalated into the biggest
showdown between Russia and the West since the Cold War but
Yanukovich has been relegated to the sidelines since his
overthrow and had not been seen publicly since a news conference
on Feb. 28.
At the time, Yanukovich said the Crimea region should remain
part of Ukraine but enjoy autonomy. On Tuesday he seemed to hold
out little hope for that, saying only that Crimea was "breaking
away" from Ukraine and that his foes were to blame.
Russia has taken control of Crimea - though it denies
pro-Russian forces there answer to Moscow - and has threatened
to send the armed forces into Ukraine it deems it necessary to
protect its citizens and other Russian-speakers there.
Pro-Russian politicians who have taken over Crimea's
government plan to stage a referendum on Sunday on making the
region, which has an ethnic Russian majority, part of Russia - a
move Western governments say is unacceptable.
Yanukovich criticised U.S. plans to extend financial aid to
Ukraine, citing what he said was U.S. law prohibiting aid to
illegitimate foreign authorities. He said he would raise the
issue with the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court.
"You do not have the right, according to your own laws, to
give money to bandits," Yanukovich said.