Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich at press conference in Russia on February 28, 2014. The leader was overthrown by a United States engineered coup., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Yanukovich denies ouster, says 'ashamed & guilty' for not preventing chaos
February 28, 2014 13:11
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich pledges to fight for Ukraine. He addressed a press conference in southern Russia, appearing in public for the first time since he fled Kiev amid bloody riots.
Dozens of international reporters have flocked to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don after the fugitive Ukrainian president announced he would hold a press conference there.
Before anyone was allowed to ask questions, Yanukovich decided to set the record straight, saying he considers himself the only legitimate president of Ukraine.
“No one has ousted me,” he told reporters. “I had to leave Ukraine because of a direct threat to my life and the lives of my family.”
It is the current Ukrainian parliament that is “not legitimate,” the Ukrainian leader said, adding that the people who took power in Kiev are “spreading the propaganda of violence.”
“As you know, the power in Ukraine has been seized by nationalist fascist-like fellows representing the absolute minority of Ukrainians. The only existing way out of the situation is fulfilling all that was stipulated in the [February 21] agreement between the president of Ukraine and the opposition with participation of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, and a representative of the Russian Federation,” Yanukovich said.
He described the situation in Ukraine as “complete lawlessness,” “terror” and “chaos”, saying that the politicians, including MPs, have been threatened and are facing threats of violence. It has nothing to do with the unity government that was negotiated with the opposition, he added.
According to Yanukovich, the early Ukrainian elections announced for May 25 are also completely “illegitimate” and he will not take part in them.
Despite that, the ousted leader said he will “remain in politics,” “keep on fighting for the future of Ukraine” and return to his home country as soon as he receives “international safety guarantees.”
‘Irresponsible politics of the West’
Yanukovich left Ukraine’s capital Kiev amid the worst surge of violence in the country’s post-Soviet history, which left dozens of people dead and hundreds injured. The pro-Maidan opposition immediately capitalized on his absence from the city, dominating the parliament, which then voted to strip the president of his powers and announced early elections. It also placed the full blame for the tragic events in central Kiev on Yanukovich, making it a nearly indisputable allegation in local and Western media.
Yanukovich gave his own clear assessment of the events for the first time in weeks, drawing a very different picture. The violence and deaths in Ukraine are the “result of the irresponsible politics of the West, which has encouraged Maidan,” Yanukovich said.
US and other Western countries’ representatives “must take full responsibility” for the fact that the agreement between the president and the opposition leaders was not honored, he said.
There remains, however, a chance for the country to change its course and not to slip into chaos, Yanukovich said.
‘I lacked strength, I am sorry’
When asked if he feels ashamed of any of his own actions, Yanukovich replied that he feels both ashamed and sorry for “not having been able to stabilize the situations and stop the mayhem” in Ukraine.
“I want to apologize to the Ukrainian people for what has happened in Ukraine and that I lacked strength to maintain stability,” he said.
Yanukovich also apologized to the Ukrainian riot police, Berkut, for having to “suffer” while doing their duty of maintaining peace and order. Police officers were “burned and poured over by petrol bombs,” were “fired at and killed by rifles” but still stood their ground, he said.
The Ukrainian leader then said he had not given any order for police to fire live rounds until the rioters started using firearms, putting the officers’ lives under threat.
Yanukovich refused to comment on the Ukrainian parliament’s intention to try him in the International Criminal Court, saying that an independent investigation has to be carried out first. However, he stressed that “the scenario of bloodshed… was drafted not in Ukraine.”
‘Crimea part of Ukraine, Russian presence a rumor’
Even as Yanukovich was speaking, the situation in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Autonomous Republic of Crimea was increasingly getting out of the capital’s control. The Crimean parliament was forming a new regional government while local "self-defense squads" started actively patrolling strategic sites to prevent provocations from Ukrainian radical groups.
Yanukovich said he understands the concerns of Crimeans, who want to “protect their homes and families” from “bandits.”
However, he then urged the people of Crimea not to let any bloodshed or civil war happen. Crimea must remain a part of Ukraine while maintaining broad autonomy, Yanukovich said.
The fugitive president ruled out any possibility that he will ask Russia for military help to resolve the situation there. Also, there is no confirmed information about Russia’s alleged military presence in the region, Yanukovich said.
“I do not have any such official information,” he said. “I did not have it back then [in Ukraine], and there isn’t any now. This all has been on the level of some rumors spread by somebody,” he told journalists.
Yanukovich made it to Russia from Crimea thanks to “patriotically-minded officers,” who helped to “save his life.” He has not yet met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but they have already talked over the phone.
When asked why he chose to leave Ukraine for Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovich said that he has “an old friend there,” who can provide him with a “temporary safe haven.”
‘Russia cannot abandon Ukraine’
Yanukovich received a lot of questions on Russia’s role and possible actions in the Ukrainian crisis.
While saying “it is not correct” to tell Moscow what to do, Yanukovich said he believes “Russia cannot abandon Ukraine to its fate and should use all possible means to prevent chaos and terror in its neighboring country.”
With that, Yanukovich made it clear he was “categorically against any intervention into Ukraine and breach of its territorial integrity.”
“The truth will prevail,” Yanukovich said in an emotional conclusion to his comments to journalists, urging the politicians that have seized power in Kiev to “leave” for the sake of the Ukrainian people.
So far, there has been no indication that the new Ukrainian authorities are considering returning to a dialogue with what they consider an overthrown rival. A Kiev court on Friday issued an order for Yanukovich’s arrest, while the Ukrainian parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) earlier voted in favor of trying him at the ICC in The Hague for alleged “crimes against humanity during the recent peaceful protests.”
US, NATO, EU lecture Russia with 'provocative statements' on Ukraine
February 27, 2014 20:42
Moscow has urged NATO to refrain from provocative statements on Ukraine and respect its non-bloc status after a chorus of Western politicians said Russia should be “transparent” about its military drills and avoid any steps that could be “misunderstood.”
“When NATO starts giving a consideration the situation in Ukraine, it sends out the wrong signal,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on its website on Thursday.
As Ukraine’s turmoil has shifted to the ethnic Russian-majority in the Crimea region, the US, NATO, and the EU have all voiced their concerns over the situation as well as come up with proposals on how Russia should act.
At the same time, the EU-brokered agreement to settle the Ukrainian political crisis which was signed on February 21 and certified by the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France “is still not being implemented,” Russia said.
“Militants, who still haven’t surrendered arms and not vacated administrative buildings, announced their intention to ‘bring order’ to all Ukrainian regions,” the Russian ministry said.
The agreement to jointly investigate violence, as well as to form a national unity government “fell into oblivion,” Moscow said. “Instead, as it was announced on [Kiev’s] Maidan ‘a government of winners’ has been established which includes nationalist extremists.”
Russia urged foreign partners who encouraged the opposition rallies in Ukraine and then initiated the February 21 settlement agreement, to realize their responsibility to work towards its fulfillment.
Moscow says it is ready to cooperate with the West on Ukraine, just as it had been offering to do long before the crisis in the country descended to bloody unrest.
“But we are ready to cooperate if there is a clear understanding that the cooperation should be honest, and based on an ability to make agreements as well as to fulfil them. And agreements should take into consideration interests of all the Ukrainian people as well as of all Ukraine’s partners,” the ministry’s statement reads.
‘Moscow, be careful’ chorus
The barrage of comments from the West particularly intensified after President Vladimir Putin ordered on Wednesday a surprise military drill to test the combat readiness of the armed forces across western and central Russia. The move – Moscow underlined – was not related to events in Ukraine and was in full compliance with Russia’s international agreements (The Vienna Document 2011) and obligations. That has been confirmed by NATO.
However on Thursday, NATO’s chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia “not to take any action that could escalate tension or create misunderstanding.”
His statement was echoed by American Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who said that Moscow must be transparent about military exercises along the Ukrainian border and not take any steps that could be misinterpreted or "lead to miscalculation during a delicate time."
US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow Wednesday to be “very careful” with its approach to Ukraine and respect its territorial integrity.
A similar sentiment came from the head of another NATO member-state, British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"We are particularly concerned by the situation in Crimea - every country should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine," Cameron added at a joint briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London on Thursday.
Lawmakers in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted Thursday to hold a referendum to determine the region’s future.
According to the parliament’s spokeswoman as a result of “the unconstitutional seizure of power in Ukraine by radical nationalists supported by armed gangs,” Crimea’s peace and order is “under threat.” Ethnic Russians form around 58.3 percent of the population of the peninsula on the Black Sea.
Turmoil in the region began after the new Ukrainian authorities ousted President Yanukovich and revoked a 2012 law that allowed regions to use minority languages, including Russian, as second language.
The European Parliament also had its say pointing out in a resolution that Russia must not put economic pressure on Ukraine. Moscow “pledged to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the "Budapest memorandum" signed with the US and the UK in 1994,” the parliament’s press service reported. In the same act, they added, “it also pledged to refrain from exerting economic pressure on Ukraine in order to subordinate it to its own interests.”
On Thursday, NATO defense ministers and Ukraine’s first deputy defense minister gathered in Brussels to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, while the parliament in Kiev was busy forming the new Cabinet.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was important “that we prevent a breakup of the Ukraine, and that special forces in the country are strengthened,” Ruptly TV reported.
“NATO stands ready to support democratic development, defense reforms, military cooperation and democratic control over the security sector,” Rasmussen said after the session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. NATO, which “has a long-standing partnership” with Ukraine is set to continue its engagement and support the country “on the path of democratic and inclusive reforms,” he added.
A day earlier, Rasmussen also noted that the door to NATO remains open to Ukraine, admitting though that there are “more urgent priorities” for the country’s new leadership.
Russia, in response blamed the western alliance for attempting to make a decision for Ukrainians.
“So, the membership should remain among not so urgent, but still priority tasks?” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. “We strongly recommend everyone to refrain from provocative statements and respect Ukraine’s non-bloc status.”