MOSCOW - Viktor Yanukovich said on Thursday he was still president of Ukraine and warned its "illegitimate" rulers that people in the southeastern and southern regions would never accept mob rule.
In a statement sent to Russian news agencies from an unknown location, Yanukovich railed against the "extremists" who had stolen power in Ukraine, threatened violence against himself and his closest aides and passed "illegal" laws.
Almost a week after he was toppled by violent protests against widespread corruption in the former Soviet state, Yanukovich's whereabouts are still unknown after he fled the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
The 63-year-old is now wanted in Ukraine on charges of mass murder over the police shooting of demonstrators, and Russian and Ukrainian media have speculated he may have traveled to Moscow, although that could not be confirmed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said he had no information and could not comment on Yanukovich's statement.
"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.
"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."
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