The ousted president says he made a mistake
The deposed President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, said Wednesday he made a mistake inviting Russia into Crimea, a decision that backfired with Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.
In his first interview since fleeing Ukraine to Russia, Mr. Yanukovych said the takeover of the Black Sea peninsula was a “tragedy”, and pledged to try to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to return the territory to Ukraine.
“Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy,” Mr. Yanukovych said in an interview with the Associated Press and Russia’s state NTV television.
Mr. Yanukovych fled Ukraine after about 80 protesters died following three months of violent demonstrations. The protests started November 2013 focused on his government’s decision to seek closer economic ties with Russia instead of the European Union.
In the chaos that followed the takeover by new leaders, Russia swept into Crimea originally on the invitation of Mr. Yanukovych and under the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians living there. Many Ukrainians viewed the decision as a treason.
“I was wrong,” Mr. Yanukovych said. “I acted on my emotions.”
The region was later annexed by Russia in defiance of intense opposition from the new leaders of Ukraine and the West, after a hastily called referendum in which the local population voted overwhelmingly to join Russia.
Mr. Yanukovych said the takeover of Crimea wouldn’t have happened if he had stayed in power.
He denied allegations of corruption against him, and firmly rejected charges that he authorised the killing protesters.
Mr. Yanukovych said he has spoken with Mr. Putin twice by phone and once in person since he arrived in Russia. He said the talks were “difficult”, the AP reported.
“We must search for ways … so that Crimea may have the maximum degree of independence possible … but be part of Ukraine,” he said.
Mr. Yanukovych said he was ready to sacrifice his life during the escalating protests but realized that doing so would be simply a gift to the “neo-fascists” who he said seized power by force.
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