Yanukovych Insists He's Still President Of Ukraine, But The Country Begs To Differ
On Friday, ousted Ukranian President Victor Yanukovych spoke out for the first time since he fled the country, insisting he still has a right to leadership. According to Yanukovych, he's still Ukraine's president: nobody overthrew him, and there was a direct and imminent threat to his life in the country, thus forcing him to flee. Appearing at a press conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, the former president vowed to continue his fight for the presidency.
Those currently in power in Ukraine have no sincere authority from parliament, Yanukovych continued, and he'll battle "against those who try to occupy it through fear and terror." The current leaders of the country are "people who preach violence," Yanukovych added, and "fascist hooligans" are to blame for the unrest.
Meanwhile, the Crimea region of Ukraine remains a hotspot for tension. In the latest slew of international strain, armed men in military uniforms occupied two main airports in the area Friday. Fingers have been pointed at Russia, but Moscow denies any involvement. Pressures are already high between the two countries, and though there has been no extreme violence in recent days, Russian military movement and exercises on the Ukrainian border can't be ignored.
Crimea is a strategic area in Ukraine: a region with strong ties to Russia. In his press conference, Yanukovych stated that the peninsula must remain a part of Ukraine, though it is an autonomous region.
The armed soldiers took over Belbek Airport in Sevastopol, home of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, and at the airport in Simferopol, Crimea's capital. While Sevastopol's airport is blockaded, flights resumed their regular activity in Simferopol.
Ukraine's interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said on his Facebook page that the armed men are believed to be linked to the Russian military. Though their uniforms are unmarked, they "do not hide their affiliation." However, a spokesperson for the Black Sea Fleet tells Interfax news agency that none of their units have moved toward the airport or taken any part in blockading it.
The airport takeover comes a day after heavily-armed gunmen seized government buildings in Simferopol Thursday. Ukraine's parliament is telling Russia to back off, as pro-Russian activists call for Moscow rule in the battleground peninsula. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov referred to the soldiers as "terrorists" during a meeting in Kiev.
In short, the country is still a tumultuous mix of chaos and confusion. The armed men aren't provoking anyone physically, but are keeping quiet on their identity. Avakov called it an "armed invasion and occupation."
As the country shifts its leadership, the interior minister is calling for intervention from the U.N. Security Council for the Crimea region.