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Ukrainian President Yanukovych calls Crimea developments ‘tragedy’

“I would have tried to prevent it if I was there,” Yanukovych says

MOSCOW, April 02. /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Wednesday that Crimea’s secession from Ukraine was “a tragedy” and he personally cannot agree with the republic’s merger with Russia.

“I would have tried to prevent it if I was there,” Yanukovych said in an interview with The Associated Press and Russia’s NTV television channel.

The 63-year-old president called the recent developments in Crimea “a pain and a tragedy, which will be very hard to accept.”

Ukraine is in political turmoil. Violent anti-government protests, which started last November, when the country suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia, resulted in a coup this February.

President Yanukovych had to leave Ukraine in February citing security concerns and new people were brought to power amid violent riots. Russia does not recognize the new Ukrainian authorities.

The Ukrainian crisis deepened when the Republic of Crimea, which does not recognize the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities in Kiev either, signed a treaty with the Russian Federation to become its constituent member on March 18 after a referendum two days earlier in which most Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the Crimean referendum was in full conformity with the international law and the UN Charter, and also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.

Despite that, Ukraine’s new authorities and the West have denounced the Crimean plebiscite claiming it was illegal, and have refused to recognize Crimea part of Russia. Western countries even moved further, imposing sanctions on some Russian officials, but Moscow responded tit for tat.

The West has threatened Russia with new economic sanctions unless Moscow changes its foreign policy.