The world has been wondering for days what happened to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who has become a wanted fugitive. Now the ousted leader has surfaced and apparently is in Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, he was closely aligned with while in office. Yanukovich, who’s been silent ever since he left the presidential palace in Kiev on Saturday after mass anti-government protests, announced Thursday that he will hold a press conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Russian media reported.
Yanukovych, who still calls himself the only legitimate leader of Ukraine, finally broke his silence since fleeing Kiev.
"The exact location of the press conference will be disclosed at a later time," said the Russian daily Pravda. "Earlier, Yanukovich asked the Russian government for protection, a request that has reportedly been satisfied," the paper added.
"Threats of vengeance have been voiced concerning myself and my allies. I am forced to ask Russian authorities grant me protection from the actions of extremists," Yanukovych said in a earlier statement carried by Pravda. He added, "I still consider myself to be the legal head of the Ukranian government, elected with free will by Ukranian citizens."
The relationship between Yanukovych and his Russian backers is close, especially after he agreed to a $15 billion Russian aid package in exchange for backing out of a deal that would integrate Ukraine more closely with the European Union.
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In late November, Ukrainians flooded the streets of Kiev to protest Yanukovych’s decision. Many Ukrainians felt betrayed by the government because it promised for years it would sign the European pact, but it suddenly without explanation shifted its position. After the brutal government crackdown on protesters that left at least 100 dead, Ukraine’s parliament decided to force Yanukovych out.
In response to the reports that Yanukovych is in Russia, Putin’s spokesman said he could not comment on the matter and that he had no information, reported euronews.com.