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‘I’m not leaving’: Yanukovich accuses opposition of coup d’etat, calls on EU to fulfill obligations

Published time: February 22, 2014 19:05
Edited time: February 23, 2014 11:07

A handout tv grab provided by the Presidential Press Service shows Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych speaking to the local TV in Kharkiv on February 22, 2014. (AFP Photo / HO / Presidential Press-Service)

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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has called the latest developments in the country a coup d’etat, denying speculations of his resignation. He also accused international mediators of not fulfilling their obligations.

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“I'm always threatened with ultimatums. I'm not going to leave the country,” Yanukovich said in an interview with local UBR TV channel. “I'm not going to resign. I'm a legitimately elected president.”

The interview with the embattled president was broadcast right after the opposition claimed it had received verbal assurances that Yanukovich was resigning.

But as parliament deputies said they were waiting for the written confirmation on his resignation, the president announced his plans to travel across the country's southeast, which is “so far, less dangerous.”

"Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and bandits and a coup d'etat," Yanukovich said in a televised statement.

On Saturday, Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) held a new emergency session, during which it passed a law on the return to the 2004 constitution without the president's signature, saying that the president had removed himself from power.

It also appointed a new head of the Ministry of Interior and a new head speaker of the Rada. In addition, parliament ruled to free former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison and set early presidential elections for May 25.

A general view of Ukraine's parliament during the vote to remove President Viktor Yanukovich from office hours after he abandoned his Kiev office to protesters and denounced what he described as a coup, in a session in Kiev February 22, 2014. (Reuters / Stringer)

But Yanukovich says the motions passed by parliament are illegitimate, and says he will not sign any of them.

“The decisions that they are now approving are illegal. I won't sign anything,” he told UBR journalists in Kharkov. "This is not an opposition, these are bandits.”

The president said his car had been shot at while he was traveling to the airport to go to Kharkov.

"But I have no fear. I am overwhelmed by grief for our country. I feel responsibility," he said.

"I'm doing everything to prevent the bloodshed of the people who are close to me,” Yanukovich stated, referring to his supportive deputies who he said are being threatened, beaten, and targeted by stone-throwing rioters.

He compared the situation in turbulent Ukraine – which is facing its worst political crisis in modern history – to the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s.

"We now see the same things that were [happening] in the 1930s, when the Nazis came to power. [They] forbade [political] parties...It's the same now – [they] ban the party, stalk, beat people, burn down offices," he said.

Will EU mediators fulfill their responsibilities?

Yanukovich is determined to do whatever it takes to “stop the bloodshed” and protect Ukraine “from a split.” But the president admits: "I still don’t know how I am going to do it.”

The leader has stated that he expects international mediators to fulfill their commitments.

“What we are going to do depends on the reaction from the international community, how they are going to meet their responsibilities,” Yanukovich said. “The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, still legitimate, reported yesterday he was speaking with Europeans, with Poland’s head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the US. I hope to hold negotiations in the coming days.”

Yanukovich will call on EU mediators to stop “actions by radicals.”

“I was given guarantees of all the international mediators, with whom I worked. They gave security assurances. I'll see how they will perform this role,” he said.

On Friday, Yanukovich and opposition leaders signed an EU-brokered agreement on ending the political crisis in the country. While it stipulated five major conditions, the agreement did not give the opposition the power to impose new laws or appointments without presidential approval, though they have attempted to do just that.

The signed peace deal document between Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders is seen in Kiev, February 21, 2014. (Reuters / Andrew Kravchenko)

Thus the conditions of the deal are being clearly violated. However, the EU – which mediated the deal between the opposition and ruling government – remains quiet.

What the Ukrainian opposition IS NOT fulfilling:

1. Within 48 hours of the signing of this agreement, a special law will be adopted, signed and promulgated, which will restore the Constitution of 2004 including amendments passed until now. Signatories declare their intention to create a coalition and form a national unity government within 10 days thereafter.

2. Constitutional reform, balancing the powers of the President, the government and parliament, will start immediately and be completed in September 2014.

3. Presidential elections will be held as soon as the new Constitution is adopted but no later than December 2014. New electoral laws will be passed and a new Central Election Commission will be formed on the basis of proportionality and in accordance with the OSCE & Venice commission rules.

4. Investigation into recent acts of violence will be conducted under joint monitoring from the authorities, the opposition and the Council of Europe.

Lavrov to EU: Urge opposition to fulfill the deal

On Saturday, the foreign ministers of France, Poland, and Germany – the trio that most actively helped reach the deal between the rival sides in Kiev – admitted that opposition leaders have broken the agreement, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The three EU ministers have spoken separately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who has voiced concerns over the Ukrainian opposition’s failure to fulfill the conditions of the agreement.

"The opposition not only has failed to fulfill a single of its obligations but is already presenting new demands all the time, following the lead of armed extremists and thugs whose actions pose direct threat to Ukraine's sovereignty and constitutional order," Lavrov told the ministers.

Russia’s FM has called on his counterparts to use their influence with the Ukrainian opposition to stop what he described as rampages by its supporters.

“It is time to stop misleading the international community and pretend that today’s Maidan represents the interests of the Ukrainian people,” Lavrov said.

But it seems that German Foreign Minister Steinmeier also has a separate agreement with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"Agreed with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier today to support new government in Ukraine and push for vital IMF financial package," Hague stated on Twitter.

Sergey Lavrov also voiced his concerns in a talk with US Secretary of State John Kerry. The Russian FM told his counterpart that Kiev had been taken over by "illegal extremist groups," adding that the situation in Ukraine has sharply escalated, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.