Viktor F. Yanukovych, the ousted president of Ukraine, declared on Thursday that he remained the lawful president of the country and appealed to Russia to “secure my personal safety from the actions of extremists.” Russian news agencies reported that he had already arrived in Russia, but officials did not immediately confirm that.
Mr. Yanukovych’s remarks were his first since he appeared in a video on Saturday night after fleeing Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, for eastern Ukraine. His defiance of the country’s new interim leaders only deepened the political turmoil in the country and threatened to draw Russia more deeply into the conflict.
Mr. Yanukovych, in a letter published by news agencies here, went on to suggest that largely Russian regions of Ukraine – including the east and Crimea – did not accept “the anarchy and outright lawlessness” that had gripped the country and said that orders by the new authorities to use the armed forces to impose order were unlawful. He clearly meant the response to pro-Russia demonstrations in Crimea, which took an ugly turn on Thursday morning when armed gunmen seized control of the regional Parliament in Simferopol.
“I, as the actual president, have not allowed the armed forces of Ukraine to interfere in the ongoing internal political events,” he said, contradicting early reports that he had ordered the military to intervene in Kiev, only to have his order rebuffed. “I continue to order this. In the case that anyone begins to give a similar order to the armed forces and power structures, those orders will be unlawful and criminal.”