Deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych said on Thursday he still considers himself to be Ukraine's legitimate head of state and that people in its southeastern and southern regions would never accept the "lawlessness" brought by leaders chosen by a mob.
Russian news agencies quoted a statement by Yanukovich as saying he had asked Moscow to guarantee his personal security. The statement could not be independently verified and it was not clear where Yanukovich was, although some media groups have suggested he is in Moscow after fleeing Ukraine, where he was toppled by opposition forces at the weekend.
"I, Viktor Fedorovich Yanukovich appeal to the people of Ukraine. As before I still consider myself to be the lawful head of the Ukrainian state, chosen freely by the will of the Ukrainian people," he was quoted as saying in a statement to Russian news agencies, his first comments since February 22. "Now it is becoming clear that the people in southeastern Ukraine and in Crimea do not accept the power vacuum and complete lawlessness in the country, when the heads of ministries are appointed by the mob."
"On the streets of many cities of our country there is an orgy of extremism," he said, adding that he and his closest aides had been threatened physically. "I am compelled to ask the Russian Federation to ensure my personal security from the actions of extremists."
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said he had no information and could not comment on the statement.
Russian television showed what it said was a copy of the statement.
Interfax news agency quoted a source in the authorities as saying Moscow would ensure Yanukovich's safety on the Russian territory. "In connection with the appeal by president Yanukovich for his personal security to be guaranteed, I report that the request has been granted on the territory of the Russian Federation," the source was quoted as saying.
Read his full statement here.