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Yanukovych hopes for Crimea's return

APTOPIX Russia Yanukovych

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) -- Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, said Wednesday that he was "wrong" to invite Russian troops into Crimea, and vowed to try to persuade Russia to return the Black Sea peninsula.

In his first interview since fleeing to Russia in February, Yanukovych told The Associated Press and Russia's state NTV television that he still hopes to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get back the coveted region.

Russia annexed Crimea last month following a hastily called referendum held after Russian troops took control of the region. Ukraine and the West have rejected the move as illegal.

"Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy," Yanukovych told The AP, insisting that Russia's takeover of Crimea wouldn't have happened if he had stayed in power. He fled Ukraine after three months of anti-government protests against his rule.

The 63-year-old said he has personally met with Putin since he arrived and hopes to have more meetings with the Russian leader to negotiate Crimea's return.

"We must set such a task and search for ways to return to Crimea on any conditions, so that Crimea may have the maximum degree of independence possible ... but be part of Ukraine," he said.

Yanukovych said he and Putin had a "calm" but "difficult" conversation.

He said the Crimean referendum that was held just two weeks after Russian troops overran the peninsula - in which residents overwhelmingly voted to join Russia - was a response to threats posed by radical nationalists in Ukraine.

Yanukovych had pushed for local referendums that would allow parts of Ukraine to determine their own local government structures. He argued that should have been followed by a constitutional reform, and only after that should Ukraine have a national election.

The interim government in Kiev that took power after Yanukovych, meanwhile, has scheduled a presidential and some mayoral elections for May 25.

Asked about his opulent country residence outside of Kiev - a complex that shocked crowds of Ukrainians with its extravagant display of wealth amid the country's financial ruin - Yanukovych denied any allegations of corruption. He spoke with pride about his collection of dozens of old-time cars, but said he hadn't seen or used the golden loaf of bread found in his residence that has attracted much attention and sarcasm.

He also insisted that he gave no advantages or special privileges to his dentist-turned-billionaire son, who was said to have angered other Ukrainian tycoons by taking over some of the country's most profitable assets.

Yanukovych denied that he had given orders to shoot protesters in Ukraine's capital, where about 80 people were shot dead by snipers at anti-government protests in February. The government now in power has charged Yanukovych in connection with those deaths.

Yanukovych said he was criticized by his entourage for taking too soft an attitude toward the protesters, but insisted that he was reluctant to use force.

The long-time politician said he hopes to return to Ukraine someday, but didn't offer any details on how he could reclaim power.

While Putin has made it clear that Yanukovych has no political future, the Russian president has also insisted that Yanukovych's ouster was illegal and says he still remains Ukraine's only legitimate president.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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Michelle Neff April 02 2014 at 9:51 PM

Good luck guy-- you dumped on those people , like that were just a bunch of rodents, in your basement. You are one lying sack of dodo, for you to return to the Ukriane will be your second major wrong. Hope you like your new country, Jackel!

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mark and sheri April 03 2014 at 2:53 AM

You invited the Relatives you don't like into your house to stay and now you are having second thoughts because your wife and kids are p.o.ed, threatening to leave? Kind of late know.

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pnut166 April 03 2014 at 1:43 AM

He got punked ! He ran to Putin and begged him to go in and fix his country. Instead, they went in and took a big hunk of his shiznit haha ! Now he`s all crying about it.

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Pllc15 April 02 2014 at 11:22 PM

His remorse is second thoughts what he did to Ukraine but any prospect of returning to his country are highly unlikely. He has become a prisoner of his past and is a wanted man living his remaining days in Russia.

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1 reply
homeinsulation Pllc15 April 03 2014 at 2:23 AM

Or in other words, a loser

Flag Reply +1 rate up
poeinscotland April 02 2014 at 3:58 PM

This man is attempting to do something rarely seen in the world of politics: a noble sacrifice of face and personal risk to reverse what developed as a very bad decision. Wonderrful to see somewone with such courage in the face of disagreement from everyone!

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1 reply
Michelle Neff poeinscotland April 02 2014 at 10:03 PM

Bravo poeinscotland!

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vegas3554 April 02 2014 at 1:48 PM

Can't believe a word he is saying; afterall he was leaning towards Russia all along.

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1 reply
krs vegas3554 April 02 2014 at 3:44 PM

"Leaning towards Russia" c'mon he was a Russian puppet, a stooge for Putin.

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2 replies
hekkenklak krs April 02 2014 at 4:44 PM

kinda like all the stooges for OB. LOL

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plitiksnly krs April 02 2014 at 5:39 PM

Agree too!

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dusty754 April 02 2014 at 11:30 PM

Wow! I have searched the world map and cannot find this nation called The Ukraine. I can find Ukraine but even with magnifying glasses I cannot find The Ukraine.

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4 replies
ralphhale3 April 02 2014 at 12:32 PM

Yeah, right. I'm sure the Ukrainian people believe he is genuine in his feelings. I'm sure they will feel badly about ousting him, let him back into power, and watch as Russia takes over while he and Vlad sip cognac in Sochi.

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atdflooring April 02 2014 at 5:47 PM

we should do a fly by with some of our raptors, also move a few of our carriers in to to arena, good bye bullys

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marys4muttz April 02 2014 at 3:03 PM

Putin will use the "Crimea belongs with Ukraine" bit as an excuse to unite the 2 by invading and taking over all of Ukraine. Yanukovych is a greedy idiot, Putler a snake.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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