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ROSTOV-ON-DON, November 28. /TASS/. The armed conflict in Ukraine during the Maidan events was provoked by those who are at the country’s helm now, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said on Monday.
Speaking on the events of the winter of 2013-2014, Yanukovich said the first calls to take up arms came from the Euromaidan leaders, including Prosecutor-General Yuri Lutsenko.
"Lutsenko and other leaders of Maidan called for the armed standoff and taking over the presidential residence," the former president said at the Rostov District Court via a video link-up answering the questions of Kiev’s Svyatoshinsky District Court about the Maidan events.
This line in favor of the armed confrontation hampered the implementation of an agreement, which was signed back then between the authorities and the opposition representatives and "offered a peaceful solution to the situation," Yanukovich said.
"Unfortunately, it happened so that first these radicals seized power at night of February 21-22, captured state institutions, then the residence and finally they started preparing to suppress the citizens of the east and the south, who were dissatisfied with the events in Kiev," he said.
"This prompted people living in those regions to start seeking an opportunity to protect themselves and their families," Yanukovich said. "So the war began. But the war in Ukraine was started by the current authorities."
When asked who could benefit from the Maidan deaths, Yanukovich said that responsibility for the bloodshed rests on those who had organized the standoff. "It is up to court to name these people, if it ever holds a relevant trial. But I would like to stress that political responsibility rests on all of the Maidan leaders. It was to the advantage of the Maidan leaders who seized power by force," he said.
He stressed that neither he, as the then president, nor his team wanted such developments. He offered his apologies to the families of those killed during the maidan events of February 2014 for his failure to prevent these deaths. "I would like to address my words of the families of those killed. I want to apologies to you so that you see that I did my best to prevent that tragedy," the former president said.
Yanukovich said that he never rejected the initiative of the country’s European integration and only postponed the signing of an association agreement with the European Union.
"We have never changed our decision, but simply postponed it and wanted to sign the document, which would meet the national interests of Ukraine," he said during the court hearing.
The former Ukrainian president said that all proposals made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Ukraine "were not sincere."
"The IMF was constantly pushing us to hike tariffs and to increase the retirement age," Yanukovich said. "We have received a negative answer from the IMF on November 24-24, 2013. We have been refused loans under conditions, which we believed were beneficial for Ukraine."
"However, I did not expect that as a result of all this my political opponents would resort to bloodshed," he said.
Asked by investigators to assess the following protests, Yanukovich said he was on a visit to Austria at that time and was very surprised with the behavior of protestors.
"Political forces, which were actually forcing me to sign the (EU association) agreement without taking national interests of Ukraine into account, falsified the real aims of the Ukrainian government and the president," he said. "I could not understand how these people were capable of building their future on spilled blood."
"We never intended to wrap up our course toward the European integration, we have initiated this course and my government in 2002-2004, and then in the capacity of the president I have done a lot to sign the agreement with the EU," Yanukovich added.
Protests in Kiev’s central Maidan Nezaleznosti, or Independence, Square broke out in late 2013, when Yanukovich put off signing an association agreement with the European Union in order to examine the deal more thoroughly. This move sparked mass riots, known as Euromaidan, that eventually led to a coup in February 2014, ousting Yanukovich from the presidency and forcing him to flee from Ukraine.
During the standoff in Kiev, radicals placed a tent camp in the Independence Square, seized a number of administrative buildings in the center of the city and set up the so-called ‘self-defense forces,’ which plunged into open fighting with law enforcers. In a period from February 18 to 20, 2014, more than 80 people were killed in Kiev. Hundreds were wounded. Twenty died later in hospital. Among those killed and wounded were officers of the Berkut special police force who were accused of shooting at protesters.
In February 2016, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said it had identified all those responsible for the Maidan events. Several persons were arrested and about twenty Berkut officers were put on a wanted list.