ROSTOV-ON-DON, February 28. /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled his country following violent protests, said Friday he would return to Ukraine when security for him and his family is ensured.
“I will return as soon as conditions for my security and the security of my family are observed,” he said at a news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
“No one deposed me. I was forced to leave Ukraine due to a direct threat to my life and the life of my close ones,” he told journalists.
The fugitive Ukrainian leader said he and his family had received threats.
“I received calls from my family members who said that even the youngest grandson was put on the lists for lustration,” he said.
Yanukovych told journalists he would continue the fight for his country’s future.
According to Yanukovych, he left Kiev in order to go to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine to meet with his associates. Someone opened fire on his car from automatic weapons, he said.
“I was not fleeing and I was not going alone,” the fugitive president said, adding that he had been accompanied by former parliamentary speaker and former presidential administration head, Vladimir Rybak and Andrei Klyuyev respectively.
After the Ukrainian Security Service began receiving reports on February 22 that groups of armed people were heading to Kharkiv, he decided to leave for the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk.
“I had no fear. I asked Rybak and Klyuyev to fly to Donetsk,” Yanukovych said.
Later threats forced him to move over to Donetsk and later to Crimea, he said.
“Traffic controllers and the military warned us that if we do not change our course, and they had allegedly been warned that we were heading to Russia, then they would use fighters. That’s when my movement across Ukraine started,” Yanukovych said.
Yanukovych said he eventually “got to Russia thanks to patriotically minded officers” who fulfilled their duty and preserved his life.
Anti-government protests that sometimes turned into riots have been underway in Ukraine since November 2013, when the authorities refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, opting for closer ties with Russia instead.
A new wave of riots started February 18 and eventually caused President Yanukovych to flee his country. The Verkhovna Rada appointed its new speaker, Alexander Turchynov, as acting president. Turchynov on Thursday signed a decree to appoint Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of the parliamentary faction of the Batkivshchina party, as the country’s prime minister.
Yanukovych has called the developments “a coup.” He told journalists in Rostov-on-Don on Friday that he still remains the legitimately elected president of Ukraine.
A total of 82 people have been killed and 881 have turned to Kiev’s medical institutions for help, with over 592 of them hospitalized, since the start of the latest violence on February 18. A total of 87 people have died since November 30, 2013, when mass protests started in Kiev.
The speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said Wednesday that Viktor Yanukovych remained Ukraine’s legitimate president because no procedures had been carried out to remove him from office.