The ousted president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, has said he remains the “legitimate” leader and has pledged to “fight for the future” of the country.
Yanukovych made the statements during a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, the first time he had appeared in public since he fled Kyiv a week ago.
His appearance came as Ukraine’s interim government called for him to be tried by the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity” during the recent protests.
Dozens of people were killed by riot police during demonstrations in Kyiv earlier in February.
One resident of the Ukrainian capital called Yanukovych a “nobody”. The man continued: “There is no place for him to return. His only supporters could be people from the Eastern regions or people like him, who imprison people.”
Yanukovych has long had a large support base in Crimea, where ethnic Russians make up almost 60 percent of the population.
In Crimea’s regional capital Simferopol, several residents said he had let the nation down by fleeing the country.
“I think he didn’t live up to the nations‘ trust. And what’s happening now is in large part his fault. Even those people who believed in him – I don’t think they’ll support him any more.”
At his news conference, Yanukovych said he had not abandoned Ukraine or been overthrown, but had left only due to threats to his life and to the lives of those close to him.