Presidential yet powerless, Yanukovych battles against reality

28th February 2014, Comments 0 comments

Dressed in a suit and tie and sitting in front of three Ukrainian flags, Viktor Yanukovych behaved as if he was still Ukraine's leader as he refused to accept the reality of the seismic shift of the last week.

Around 200 journalists found their way to see Yanukovych, 63, make his first appearance in front of the world after his dramatic flight from his country to Russia.

The event had only been announced the day before and the venue only confirmed on Friday -- an exhibition centre in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

The building was surrounded by police hours ahead of the event while civilian-dressed guards were on hand to carry out security checks.

When Yanukovych came in, he looked little different to when he was president, barrel-chested, speaking slowly and deliberately with occasionally menacing raises of his voice.

He spoke in Russian, although his soft "g" sounds were unmistakably Ukrainian.

He sat behind a desk next to the moderator of the news conference, senior journalist of the ITAR-TASS news agency Mikhail Gusman who he said he had known for a long time.

With his glasses perched on the end of his nose in the style familiar from the past years, Yanukovych spoke and answered questions for 1 hour 10 minutes before Gusman called a halt, to wails from reporters who had failed to ask questions.

He insisted he was still president of Ukraine and railed against the "terror", "anarchy" and chaos that had appeared in the country since his departure.

He called the new authorities all manner of names ranging from "neo-fascists" to "nationalists" to "bastards" to "banderovtsi", the catch-all term for followers of wartime anti-Soviet nationalist guerilla leader Stepan Bandera.

Yanukovych also implied that blue collar his former stronghold in the east of Ukraine could rise up against the new authorities.

"As long as they are working and receiving their salaries they will not do anything. But when the factories stop and they have no way of living I would not like to be in the place of those who find themselves in their way."

Only once did Yanukovych show any emotion, when he paused for several seconds before asking "for forgiveness" in front of those who suffered in the current events.

He appeared on the point of tears but rapidly recovered. Once though he muddled up "Ukraine" and "Russia", much to the amusement of the assembled press.

Yanukovych may have still presented himself as the president but as he was speaking a new government in Kiev was already starting its work and his words rang hollow.

"The end is already clear. The people of Ukraine will never agree to live together with you," he told the new authorities in a genuine show of anger.

"Truth will come for sure. And it will triumph."

But in a sign times were already changing, he admitted that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin had not yet found time to grant him a meeting.

Not only did he fail to hide that he is essentially a fugitive but also that he is most likely a lonely and isolated man.

© 2014 AFP

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