The ousted president of Ukraine has said he is determined to continue the struggle for the future of his country. Viktor Yanukovych was speaking for the first time since having fled the country for Russia.
Viktor Yanukovych told reporters at a press conference held in the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don that he had only left Ukraine due to serious threats against his life and those of his loved ones.
"No one has deposed me ... I was forced to leave Ukraine because of the threat to my life," he said.
In his statement, Yanukovych, who was voted out of office by the country's parliament a few days ago, said neo-fascist forces had seized control of Ukraine, and he blamed the West for what he described as an "irresponsible" policy of "indulging the anti-government protests in Kyiv's central Independence Square."
"This is anarchy, terror and chaos," he said.
Asked by a reporter if he regretted anything, Yanukovych said he apologized "for the fact that I didn't have enough strength to maintain stability and to allow the mess to happen."
He also insisted that he remained Ukraine's legitimately elected president.
"I intend to continue the fight for the future of Ukraine against those who try to saddle it with fear and terror," he said.
Ukraine regains control of airport
Yanukovych's first public appearance in a week came just hours after Ukraine's new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, accused Russian naval forces of having taken control of the military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Ukraine's mainly-Russian-speaking Crimea region.
"I consider what has happened to be an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms," Avakov said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
One of Russia's naval fleets is based at Sevastopol.
Separately, dozens of unidentified armed men dressed in military uniforms were seen patrolling the airport at Simferopol, Crimea's capital early on Friday.
However, later, Ukraine's security council chief, Andriy Parubiy was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Ukrainian authorities had retaken the airport.
It was not immediately clear when the airport would resume normal operations after the incident prompted flight cancellations.
The heightened tensions prompted both the United Kingdom and Germany to warn their citizens from travelling to or remaining in the Crimean peninsula.
Avoiding escalation 'absolute priority'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the situation in Ukraine by phone on Thursday afternoon. Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert and the Kremlin both subsequently said that the two leaders' main priority was to avoid further escalation in the country.
Seibert also said in his statement that Merkel had urged restraint in the Crimea. Putin also discussed Ukraine with British Prime Minister David Cameron and the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy.
The United Nations Security Council later announced an emergency meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. local time (2000 UTC) to deliberate over the situation in Ukraine.
msh, pfd/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)