Kiev - Deposed Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovich on Friday called for referendums to be held across the country to determine the future status of every Ukrainian region, instead of presidential elections planned for May 25.
“As president who is with you in thought and soul, I ask every single sensible citizen of Ukraine not to let yourselves be used by the impostors! Demand a referendum on determining the status of every region in Ukraine,” Yanukovich said in a statement quoted by Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency.
The comments, his first in over two weeks, came after Crimea voted to become part of Russia in a referendum earlier this month and was then rapidly incorporated into Russian territory.
Yanukovich fled Ukraine for Russia in February and is now reportedly living in a country house outside Moscow, although his two public appearances since have been in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.
He said he would not recognise presidential polls that are planned to be held on May 25 and the nationwide referendums should be held instead.
“Only a nationwide referendum, and not snap polls, can to a large extent stabilise the political situation and preserve the sovereignty and integrity if Ukraine.”
Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin have said that Yanukovich remains the legitimate president of Ukraine and have refused to recognise the pro-West rulers who took over after his fall.
However Putin has also said Yanukovich has no political future and it is not clear to what extent the former president's statements are a reflection of Russian policy.
The Regions Party - the Ukrainian faction that Yanukovich dominated for over a decade - is at the weekend due to hold a congress to determine its future strategy.
The party has recognised that it needs a complete overhaul after the fall and disgrace of its former figurehead and is going to take full part in the presidential elections.
Yanukovich in his statement asked to be removed from the party and relieved of his duties as honorary chairman - a move the congress was expected to make anyway.