Yanukovich: Maidan Scared Crimea and Donbass

Viktor Yanukovich in Rostov
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich attends a news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, March 11, 2014. Since then he rarely appeared in public or gave any public statements. Today BBC published the first interview Yanukovich did with a foreign journalist since he was removed from his position. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

The Ukrainian revolution is the main culprit for what happened to Crimea and Donbass, according to the former president of the country Victor Yanukovich. He expressed this opinion speaking to a BBC reporter in his first interview to foreign media since he was removed from his position by the revolution.

"Maidan scared Crimea, Donbass and the whole Southeast Ukraine with its extreme-right views," Yanukovich said, referring to the Square of Independence in Kiev that became the symbol of the last year's revolution.

"Today the people of Crimea look at what's happening in Donbass and imagine what could have happened to them if they didn't go to Russia," he added, arguing that there's no evidence that Russia is sending troops and weapons to support the rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk. "I think what's happening in Donbass now is genocide of its population."

Yanukovich, who flew to Russia in February 2014 after the clashes between the police and the protesters grew violent and more than 100 people were killed, addressed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, his alleged order to shoot protesters and allegations of corruption in the extensive Q&A.

Speaking about Crimea, he called what happened to the region "a tragedy" for the Ukrainian state, but argued that 90 percent of the Crimean population voted for the secession.

"This is a consequence of Maidan's actions. This is a consequence of extreme nationalist movement that scared the population of Crimea that has always been pro-Russian," Yanukovich said.

He still believes that he was illegally suspended from his position, and he denies any involvement in the shootings of the protesters. "The Ukrainian people have already understood that the shootings weren't in the government's interests nor the president's. Only the radicals, the criminals that decided to seize the power in the country benefited from them," Yanukovich said. "I don't have any evidence of anybody ordering to shoot at the protesters."

When asked about his riverside sprawling mansion, where a lot of documents implicating Yanukovich and his aides in corruption were found after his escape, along with a private ostrich zoo and numerous vintage cars, the former president denied that he owned anything on the property except for a house. "There are no documents," he said.

"I supported the ostriches. They just happened to live there. What's bad about it?" he added.

Now Yanukovich mostly lives in Rostov, a city in southern Russia close to the Ukrainian border. He also moves around a lot, sometimes visiting Moscow. However, only his security guards know where and when he goes, because his life is still under threat, according to the former president.