Ousted Yanukovych vows to fight on

The Ukrainian interior minister claimed that Russia entered an airport overnight on the Black Sea peninsula

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In his first public appearance since fleeing Ukraine, fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych vowed on Monday to keep fighting but pledged not to seek any military action.

“I intend to keep fighting for the future of Ukraine,” he told a news conference Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Yanukovych had not been seen since Saturday as he lost his grip on power, the Associated Press reported.

Yanukovych said he supports Crimea’s residents who are worried about “nationalists” in Kiev but that use of force is “unacceptable.”

“Any military action in this situation is unacceptable,” Yanukovych told reporters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

Yanukovych said he was surprised that Russian President Vladimir Putin had not yet spoken out on the Ukraine crisis after his ousting from power.

“Knowing the character of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I am surprised that he is keeping silent in such a reserved way. This is a question,” Yanukovych said. He had earlier said he had spoken to Putin by telephone but had not yet met him since arriving in Russia.

He insisted that he “did not flee anywhere” but left for the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. He said he was “forced” to leave the country when he was in Crimea after his family received threats.

Asked how he managed to get to Russia, the fugitive president said he got out “thanks to patriotic officers who did their duty and helped me to save my life.”

Yanukovych said he had not met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia but talked with him on the phone, adding that he hopes the Russian leader will find time to meet him.

The Ukrainian president lambasted the West for allegedly betraying a Feb. 21 compromise agreement between the government and the opposition, saying that recent actions by the opposition run counter to the EU-brokered pact.

Meanwhile, a top Ukrainian security official said two airports in Crimea were under Ukrainian control despite attempts by gunmen to “seize” them.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister said earlier Friday that Russian navy troops were blocking access to the airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol, describing it as a “military invasion and occupation.”

But Ukraine’s Security Council Chief Andriy Parubiy insisted later that the airports were still under Ukrainian control, according to the Interfax news agency, AP reported.

[With AFP and AP]