Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich vows not to resign and denounces 'coup'

President calls protests 'vandalism and banditry' in televised address

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The Independent Online

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has vowed not to resign and blamed the rapid erosion of his power on a “coup”, comparing the anti-government movement to the rise of the Nazis.

He was speaking to a local television station on Saturday following rumours among protesters that the embattled leader had finally stepped down.

Ukrainian channel ICTV broadcast a pre-recorded address by the President, in which he says he needs to "protect the people" and end bloodshed.

He said he was legitimately elected and will not leave Ukraine or resign, describing events of the last week as “vandalism, banditry and a coup”.

Mr Yanukovich also claimed his car had been shot at, although no injuries were visible. "I am not afraid. I feel sorrow for my country," he told UBR television.

In a day of extraordinary developments in Ukraine, anti-government demonstrators were hoping that Mr Yanukovich would finally bow to pressure.

Much of the government district in Kiev, including the President's own office, has been occupied by activists in the apparent absence of security forces.

Mr Yanukovich's location has not been confirmed but a senior security source claimed he was still in Ukraine.

Hanna Herman, a close aide of the President, told reporters he was visiting the city of Kharkiv in the east, where many of his supporters are based.

Some believe that Mr Yanukovich was in the process of mobilising his supporters from the pro-Russian area to carry out a counter-coup.

Security forces, including riot police accused of brutality against protesters in Kiev, have vowed not to take part in any more conflict "with the people".

The heads of the military, the Berkut anti-riot police, Alfa special operations unit and military intelligence made the announcement in parliament on Saturday.

Reuters quoted a "senior security source" who claimed Mr Yanukovych was still in the country “Everything is OK with him,” the source said. “He is in Ukraine.”

The Interior Ministry had already signalled its allegiance to anti-government protests under a new minister from the ranks of the opposition.

A statement issued on their website called on citizens to work with police to restore order as soon as possible, claiming the ministry "shared a desire for change".

The statement said: “The transition to a parliamentary- presidential form of government should not create chaos, to put society in terms of disorder and lawlessness.

"The police calls for joint efforts to ensure public order in the states and not prevent the destruction of law enforcement infrastructure that was created [over many] years and will always need people to protect against unlawful encroachments."

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov,  has claimed the opposition movement are "armed extremists" and are threatening Ukraine's sovereignty.

In a message to his German, Polish and French counterparts, he said the anti-government movement had failed to honour the terms of Friday's agreement.

“The opposition not only has failed to fulfil a single of its obligations but is already presenting new demands all the time, following the lead of armed extremists and pogromists whose actions pose direct threat to Ukraine's sovereignty and constitutional order,” Lavrov told the EU ministers, according to a statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.

Zerkalo Nedeli, a Ukrainian news website, reported that the Defence Minister, Pavlo Lebedev, left for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea without appointing anyone to take over his duties.

Thousands of protesters remain on the streets of Ukraine despite a deal signed on Friday aiming to end the political crisis.

Parliament approved the pact mediated by European foreign ministers after days of violent clashes between demonstrators and police in Kiev that left an estimated 77 people dead.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters