Moscow - Ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich on Tuesday said that he was still the country's legitimate president and commander-in-chief, saying he believed he would be able to return to Kiev soon.
“I remain not just the sole legitimate president of Ukraine but also commander-in-chief,” he said in his first public appearance in over a week, in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
“As soon as the circumstances allow - and I am sure there is not long to wait - I will without doubt return to Kiev,” he added.
In contrast to his lengthy press conference when he re-emerged in Russia, Yanukovich, who was speaking Russian, gave only a seven-minute statement in a conference hall in Rostov-on-Don, standing in front of several Ukrainian flags.
He then left the stage alone without taking questions.
He reaffirmed his belief that power in Kiev had been taken by a “band of ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists” and said that presidential elections planned in May would be “absolutely illegitimate and illegal”.
Yanukovich told the new pro-West authorities in Ukraine who took over after he fled to Russia last month that “sooner or later, most likely sooner” they would be held responsible for their actions.
“You will be made responsible for the suffering of the people. Ukraine is now going through a difficult time,” he said.
He blamed them for the fact that Ukraine appears about to lose control of Crimea which is set to be claimed by Russia after a referendum next week.
“Your actions have led to the fact that Crimea is separating and the people of the south and east are demanding respect, even in the face of machine guns,” he said.
“We will get through this trouble, the people who have been deceived by you will see this and the country will rise up and unify,” said Yanukovich.
However, contrary to expectations, Yanukovich made no other reference to the crisis over Crimea in his statement.