Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is calling on Ukrainians not to support the interim government established after he fled Kyiv, saying he remains the nation's "legitimately-elected president."
In a Friday news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Mr. Yanukovych said he was forced from power by "nationalist pro-fascist thugs" representing only a small minority of Ukrainians. He called on his opponents to stop what he called the "horrible lawlessness" in his country and vowed to return to Ukraine as soon as his security is guaranteed.
Mr. Yanukovych said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone when he arrived in Russia, and they agreed that they will meet as soon as possible. He said he is surprised President Putin has been "so restrained" regarding the situation in Ukraine, adding that Russia cannot "stay aside" and be "indifferent" to the fate of such a big partner.
He called on Russia to use "all possible ways" to stop what he called the "chaos and terror" in Ukraine, but said he is not going to ask for military support.
Mr. Yanukovych said no military action should be allowed and that the way out of the current situation is to implement an agreement he reached with the opposition, under which a presidential election was to be held in December. He said he will not participate in the presidential election now planned for May 25, calling it "illegal."
The ousted leader said he would like to apologize to the Ukrainian people for what happened in the country. He said he did not have enough strength to maintain stability and had allowed the "lawlessness" in the country.
Mr. Yanukovych said the violence that occurred during the recent unrest in Ukraine must be investigated. He said the streets and squares of Kyiv must immediately be unblocked, and that armed people must leave the streets of the capital.
Mr. Yanukovych fled Kyiv last week and his exact whereabouts had been unknown. Ukraine's interim government issued an arrest warrant for him this week, accusing him and other officials of mass murder of protesters. The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said Friday it would seek his extradition.
Swiss authorities launched a money laundering probe into Mr. Yanukovych and his son Oleksander on Friday, a day after saying theuy would order banks to freeze any funds connected to the ousted Ukrainian president.