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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect