World News

Yanukovych Says He Remains Ukraine's Leader

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych blamed his opponents Tuesday for Crimea's moves to break away from Ukraine and said he remains the country's president and commander-in-chief.

Mr. Yanukovych spoke from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, in his second public appearance since he fled Kyiv last month following months of anti-government protests.

Denouncing Ukraine's interim authorities as "extremists," the ousted leader called the new government's planned May 25 elections "illegitimate" and "illegal."



"I declare that the elections for the president which are scheduled to be held on May 25 by a clique which seized power through an unconstitutional coup are absolutely illegitimate and illegal. They don't correspond to article 103 of Ukraine's constitution. Any organ of power that is formed as a result of those illegal elections will also be illegitimate and illegal."



He also blamed the interim government for the tensions in Crimea and elsewhere in southern and eastern Ukraine.



"Ukraine is going through a difficult time now. Your actions have led to the fact that the Crimea is splitting off, that even at the point of a submachine gun, the population of the southeast is demanding respect for themselves and their rights."



Mr. Yanukovych had strong words for the United States and its offer of $1 billion in loan guarantees to the interim government, saying the U.S. government does not have the right to "give money to bandits."

Meanwhile, Crimea's regional legislature adopted a "declaration of independence" Tuesday stating that the peninsula will declare itself an independent state if Crimean residents vote Sunday for the region to join Russia as a constituent republic. Ukraine's national government has said that all of Ukraine must vote on any referendum allowing Crimea to join Russia.

And acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov announced the formation of a new National Guard in response to the conflict with Russia. Ukraine's interim leaders blamed mismanagement by the previous administration, that of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, for the weakness of Ukrainian forces. The interim administration says Ukraine presently has only about 6,000 in its combat-ready infantry.

Russia and the West are locked in a tense standoff over seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula by pro-Russian forces. The crisis in Crimea began late last month after Mr. Yanukovych's ouster.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Tuesday on the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

A State Department spokeswoman said Kerry told his Russian counterpart it is "unacceptable" that Russian forces and "irregulars" continue to take matters into their own hands in Ukraine. Kerry said the U.S. respects the fact that Russia has interests in Crimea, but added that it does not justify military intervention in the region, particularly the use of force.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio Tuesday the West could impose sanctions against Russia as early as this week if Moscow does not respond positively to proposals to calm the crisis in Crimea.



Fabius said the sanctions could include freezing the assets of individual Russians or Ukrainians and sanctions on travel visas.

But if the Russians respond favorably to the proposals, the French foreign minister said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will go to Moscow and sanctions will not be immediate.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has complained that the U.S. proposals amount to "moving forward on the basis of a situation born out of a state coup."

Moscow and Mr. Yanukovych have consistently described his ouster as an "unconstitutional" overthrow. The ousted leader reiterated Tuesday that he will return to Kyiv as soon as circumstances allow it.

The situation is further complicated by the Crimea region's plans to hold a March 16 referendum on joining Russia -- a vote Fabius and other Western leaders have called "illegal."

In Kyiv Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt reiterated that Washington also will not recognize the results of the Crimean referendum.

NATO said Monday it is deploying reconnaissance aircraft along the borders of member states Poland and Romania to monitor the crisis in Ukraine. It said the deployment is designed "to enhance the alliance's situational awareness." The U.S. has also initiated a new deployment of fighter jets to the region.

Moscow has officially denied that its troops are participating in the occupation of Crimea. But witnesses say military personnel in unmarked uniforms arrived in Russian-registered vehicles earlier this month and freely admit to being Russian.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, at the White House. A White House statement Monday said the visit will highlight the United States' strong support for the people of Ukraine, and will include talks on economic aid and preparations for May elections in Ukraine.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs