Russia is not considering trying to make Crimea a part of Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. Only people who live in Crimea can determine their future, he said.
However, Putin, speaking to a handful of reporters Tuesday in Moscow, was harshly critical of Kiev's new leaders.
He said ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimate leader of the nation, and the country's interim government is the result of an "anti-constitutional coup."
He called the parliament in Ukraine "partly legitimate" but said the country's acting president is not.
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Friday at a news conference in Russia that he was not overthrown but was forced to flee under threat to his life.
"I intend to continue the fight for the future of Ukraine against those who, with fear and with terror, are attempting to replace the power. Nobody has overthrown me. I was compelled to leave Ukraine due to a direct threat to my life and my nearest and dearest," he said, speaking Russian, not Ukrainian.
Yanukovych, making his first public appearance since his ouster Saturday, said the newly appointed interim government was not legitimate and did not represent the majority of Ukraine's 45 million citizens.
He accused the interim authorities in Ukraine of propagating violence, saying that they were responsible for the bloodshed last week, in which dozens of protesters died in clashes with security forces, including snipers.
"I never gave any orders to shoot," he said, adding that he sought peace and that the security forces only took up arms when their own lives were at risk.
He said the Western powers that had brokered an unimplemented deal between his government and the opposition for early elections also bore responsibility for the current situation.
Yanukovych, who spoke backed by Ukraine's blue-and-yellow flags before reporters in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, about 700 miles south of Moscow, said he was "ashamed" that he had not been able to maintain stability in his country.
"I want to apologize in front of everybody - to the veterans, to the Ukrainian people - that I did not have the strength to stop what is now taking place in the country from taking place," he said.
Yanukovych insisted he had not fled Ukraine but had left after he was "shot at virtually from all sides" while traveling within the country after quitting Kiev.
He said he had not met with Russian President Vladimir Putin since his ouster and that he would not ask for Russian military support to return him to power.
But he said he was "surprised," knowing his character, that Putin had remained silent so far on the events unfolding in Russia's western neighbor.
Michael McFaul, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Russia, spoke on "New Day" Friday saying Russia wants the Ukraine to be part of the Eurasian Union
McFaul said, “This is one of Putin’s major foreign policy objectives right now. I think it’s his signature foreign policy objective - not very well noticed in the West. If Ukraine does not go that way, it’ll be a big blow to that dream that he has.”
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