Yanukovych Admits 'Crimea is a Tragedy' in First Interview in Russia
Published: April 3, 2014 (Issue # 1804)
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — In his first interview since fleeing to Russia, Ukraine's ousted president said Wednesday that he was "wrong" to have invited Russian troops into Crimea and vowed to try to persuade Russia to return the coveted Black Sea peninsula.
Defensive and at times teary-eyed, Viktor Yanukovych told The Associated Press and Russia's state NTV television that he still hopes to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get the annexed region back.
Related: Yanukovych's Unlimited Stupidity
"Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy," the 63-year-old Yanukovych said, insisting that Russia's takeover of Crimea wouldn't have happened if he had stayed in power. He fled Ukraine in February after three months of protests focused on corruption and on his decision to seek closer ties to Russia instead of the European Union.
Yanukovych denied the allegations of corruption, saying he built his palatial residence outside of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, with his own money. He also denied responsibility for the sniper deaths of about 80 protesters in Kiev in February, for which he has been charged by Ukraine's interim government.
Related: Yanukovych the Swindler
As the world has watched the tumultuous events in Ukraine, Yanukovych has been a bit of a ghost, even as he has insisted he is still the country's true leader. While Putin has been openly dismissive of Yanukovych, the Russian president has also described him as the legitimate leader and his ouster as illegal.
Yanukovych's statement about Crimea appeared to represent an attempt to shore up at least some support in his homeland, where even his supporters have deserted him.
Russia annexed Crimea last month following a hastily called referendum held two weeks after Russian troops took control of the region. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote and the annexation as illegal.
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