Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has said that if he had had such an opportunity, he would never have allowed the Crimea referendum and the region’s subsequent separation from Ukraine.
In an interview with the media on Wednesday, he called the events in Crimea a painful tragedy which was “very difficult to agree with today.”
Yanukovich blamed Crimea’s separation from Ukraine on the current government in Kiev, adding that he, personally, and Russia had no influence there.
“It is their radical position towards the Russian language and territories with a Russian-speaking population. [The new government’s] attempt to dictate to them how they should live has resulted in protests by people on those territories,” Yanukovich said.
The March-16 referendum, where residents decided to join Russia rather than stay with Ukraine, was a way to lodge their protest against the new authorities, Yanukovich said.
“I personally cannot accept this,” the overthrown president added.
Asked about his personal feelings regarding Crimea’s reunion with Russia, Yanukovich noted: “How can I - as a president of the country - feel when the country is falling apart?”
“Processes that are now taking place in the east and south of Ukraine should also be taken very seriously,” he added. He referred to mass anti-Maidan protests that swept through these regions following the February coup.
Yanukovich also said he hopes that Crimea will return to Ukraine.
“We should set this as a goal and look for possibilities to return Crimea on any terms, so that Crimea can enjoy independence, while still remaining part of Ukraine,” Yanukovich said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
His statements came in an interview in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don with the Associated Press and Russian NTV channel.
Yanukovich – who still considers himself the legitimate president of Ukraine – said the necessity for holding the presidential vote is doubtful now, when the situation in the country is still uncertain.
“This election is already sparking more and more criticism within Ukraine,” he said.
“I have many sources of information including among the current so-called government, who are voicing increasingly more doubts on whether they really have to hold the vote, when there is still no any certainty about what the state should be like.”
Yanukovich called the vote scheduled for May 25 “hasty,” saying that it could pave the way for further destabilization in Ukraine.
“Haste in making a decision on holding the presidential elections is a way to destabilize the situation in the country further. And any kind of destabilization in such circumstances poses a huge threat of a split within society, and possibly, even the breakup of the state,” he said.
In his opinion, a referendum prior to the election on the federalization of regions was needed.
“One can’t put the cart before the horse,” Yanukovich observed. “First, it’s necessary to deal with the mechanism of the government, reach a consensus with Ukrainian citizens and all the regions. Only a referendum could do that.”
He went on to say that a referendum would be a path to constitutional reform – the only solution to the existing conflict. Ukrainians should choose which would they prefer – a constitutional or a parliamentary state, Yanukovich said.
“Depending [on the choice], after constitutional reform, either parliamentary or presidential elections should be held,” the ousted president said.
In November last year, Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the EU because, as he explained, signing the deal at that moment would have been against national interests. The decision was met with a wave of protests, which lasted for months and resulted in bloody confrontations in February, which brought new authorities to power.
In November last year, Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the EU because, as he explained, signing the deal at that moment would have been against national interests. The decision was met with a wave of protests, which lasted for months and resulted in bloody confrontations in February, before new authorities gained power.
On February 22, Ukrainian MPs voted to oust Yanukovich and hold a presidential vote on May 25. The parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, held an emergency session and passed a law on the return to the 2004 constitution, without the president's approval, saying the president had removed himself from power. Aleksandr Turchinov was appointed acting president.
Yanukovich fled the country and found shelter in Russia. He said he decided to leave because of a “direct threat” to him and his family. The politician described what happened in Ukraine as a coup d’etat and said that he remained the “legitimately elected president.”