Ukraine’s Ex-Leader Gains Russia Safe Haven, Interfax Reports

Ukraine’s deposed leader, Viktor Yanukovych, gained a safe haven in Russia after seeking protection from extremist threats, Interfax reported.

“I have been forced to ask the Russian authorities to provide me with personal protection from extremists,” Interfax and Russia’s two state newswires reported, citing a copy of Yanukovych’s address to the nation. The former leader, who agreed Feb. 21 to hold early elections in December, is in hiding after parliament voted him out of office two days later.

Russia agreed to give him a safe haven, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified official in the country’s power structures. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment immediately when called by Bloomberg.

The opposition’s ouster of Yanukovych, who claimed in the address to be Ukraine’s rightful leader, is rattling Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions. A crisis in Crimea, where Russia maintains a naval base, is raising political tensions as supporters of ties with Moscow clash with ethnic Tatars and Ukrainians. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization today warned the Kremlin against intervening.

Yanukovych said decisions by Ukraine’s parliament, which voted on an interim cabinet today, aren’t legitimate after deputies loyal to him fled, fearing for their safety, according the Interfax, RIA Novosti and Itar-Tass news services.

Fighter Jets

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has accused Yanukovych of responsibility in the deaths of at least 82 protesters in the capital Kiev last week, the bloodiest since World War II, following three months of protests.

Russia started a test of military readiness in western border regions yesterday, including putting fighter jets on alert, according to the Defense Ministry. The exercises aren’t related to the events in Ukraine, Interfax cited Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying yesterday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels today that there is no sign Russia will move in with troops. Russia won’t intervene, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, voted in today as Ukraine’s prime minister, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

Yanukovych declared his intention to fight for the implementation of a compromise agreement with opposition leaders to resolve the political crisis and said the Feb. 21 peace accord isn’t being fulfilled, according to the reports.

Yanukovych arrived in Moscow earlier this week and is staying in a Kremlin facility near Moscow, Russian newspaper RBC reported on its website last night, citing a Russian entrepreneur and a state official, who weren’t identified.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also declined to comment when contacted by phone by Bloomberg.

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