( Title: UKRAINE 2nd UPD
HEAD: Ousted Ukrainian President Voices Regret Over Russian Takeover of Crimea
PUBLISHED AT: Wednesday, April 02, 2014 5:51:18 PM
TYPE: CN ))
Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych says he was "wrong" to invite Russian troops into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula -- a move that led to Moscow's annexation of the Black Sea territory.
Mr. Yanukovych, who fled Kyiv in February after months of anti-government protests, spoke Wednesday, two weeks after Russia's parliament voted to make the peninsula a part of the Russian Federation.
In his first interview since he sought refuge in Russia, Mr. Yanukovych told the Associated Press and Russian NTV television that he will try to persuade Moscow to return the territory to Ukrainian control.
His comments come just weeks after Moscow drew international rebuke for sending thousands of troops into Crimea. He described Russia's subsequent annexation as "a tragedy, a major tragedy."
Western analysts largely described the ex-president's statements as an apparent effort to salvage some support in Ukraine, where even his one-time political allies have abandoned him.
The ex-president argued that the Russian takeover would not have occurred if he had remained in office. He also denied widespread allegations of corruption from by pro-Western protesters who sought to drive him from power.
In other developments, Moscow accused NATO of reverting to Cold War rhetoric and tactics by suspending cooperation with Russia over the annexation.
The Russian accusation came after NATO foreign ministers announced Tuesday they will officially end all civilian and military cooperation with Russia. The ministers reiterated that they do not recognize its annexation and urged Moscow to comply immediately with international law.
Despite NATO's stance, the 28-nation alliance says diplomatic channels with Moscow remain open.