A defiant Viktor Yanukovych declares: 'I will continue to fight for Ukraine'

Fugitive president vows to return to Ukraine 'as soon as it is safe to do so'

The ousted president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, gave a defiant press conference from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don today, declaring he intends to “fight for the future of Ukraine” against “those who try to occupy through fear and terror”.

Speaking in Russian, Mr Yanukovych reiterated he is still the "legitimate leader" but was forced to leave the country because of threats to his life following his ousting last Saturday.

"Nobody overthrew me," he told the press conference. "I was forced to leave Ukraine under a threat to my life and to the lives of my loved ones."

He said he had been driven from power by "young neo-fascist thugs" and pledged to return to Ukraine the moment it was safe to do so.

Mr Yanukovych voiced his surprise at Russia's "restraint" since he was deposed. "I think Russia should, and is obliged, to act, and knowing the character of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I am surprised he is so restrained and keeping silent."

His statement came as armed men took control of two airports in the Crimea region this morning, in what the interior minister described as a "military invasion". Ukraine's general prosecutor's office has said it will ask Russia to extradite Mr Yanukovych.

He condemned Ukraine’s parliament as illegitimate because votes had been gained from anti-government “militants”. “The elections on the 25 May are illegal and I am not going to be taking part”, he asserted.

Ukraine, he continued, has been taken over by "fascists hooligans" who represent only a minority of the people and "preach violence".

"What's going on now is lawlessness, lack of authority, and terror. Decisions in parliament were taken under duress.

"I can't find words to characterise this new authority. These are people who advocate violence - the Ukrainian parliament is illegitimate."

Mr Yanukovych spoke as the Swiss government ordered financial institutions to freeze any assets belonging to him.

When asked who was responsible for the bloodshed during protests in Independence Square, he insisted shots were only fired at the last minute when police were "massively attacked".

"I never gave any orders for the police to shoot," he said. "There was not a single person who was more interested in avoiding bloodshed than myself."

Criticising Western governments, he said the disturbances during protests and the victims were a result of their irresponsible policies.

He said he has not met with Russian president Vladimir Putin, but has spoken with him on the phone since arriving in Russia and they have agreed to meet.

Asked how he managed to get to Russia, the fugitive president explained he was able to leave Kiev "thanks to patriotic officers who did their duty and helped me to save my life."

Mr Yanukovych is staying in Rostov because he has an old friend there who is providing him with shelter.

He told the conference he will not request military support from Russia because Ukraine should remain as one country.

The situation in Crimea is an “absolutely natural reaction to the gangster coup that happened in Kiev,” he said. “Crimeans do not want to be subordinated," he added, but "any military action in this situation is unacceptable."

Meanwhile, the US warned Russia on Friday not to inflame the situation in Ukraine.

The Secretary of State John Kerry said of a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: "While we were told that they are not engaging in any violation of the sovereignty and do not intend to.

"I nevertheless made it clear that that could be misinterpreted at this moment and that there are enough tensions that it is important for everybody to be extremely careful not to inflame the situation and not to send the wrong messages," he added.

The UN Security Council has said it will hold private consultations to discuss the crisis in Ukraine for Friday afternoon.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on