(adds detail, quotes, context)
MOSCOW, March 28 (Reuters) - Ukraine’s deposed president Viktor Yanukovich called on Friday for each of the country’s regions to hold a referendum on its status within Ukraine, instead of presidential elections planed for May 25, Russia’s state Itar-Tass news agency reported.
“As a president who is with you with all my thoughts and soul, I urge every sensible citizen of Ukraine: Don’t give in to impostors! Demand a referendum on the status of each region within Ukraine,” Yanukovich, who fled to Russia last month, was quoted as saying in an address to the people of Ukraine.
His comments, after Moscow annexed Crimea following a referendum there in favour of joining Russia this month, echo Russia’s call for Kiev’s new leaders to enact nationwide constitutional reforms that may grant broader powers to the country’s regions.
“Only an all-Ukrainian referendum, not a snap presidential election, can, in a significant way, stabilise the political situation and preserve sovereignty and Ukraine’s (territorial) integrity,” he said.
Ukraine remains deeply divided over protests that led to Yanukovich’s ousting and many eastern Russian-speaking regions are sceptical over the policies of the new government in Kiev. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Alison Williams)