A man waves a Russian flag during a pro-Russia rally at a central square in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 10. / Sergei Grits, AP
Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych warned Tuesday that "dark forces" were creating the conditions for a Ukrainian civil war.
He made the comments during a news conference in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, the second time he has appeared in public since being pushed from power last month.
"I want to say that I am alive, although I can't say I feel very well," the ex-president said in his opening comments to journalists, addressing rumors that he had been killed. Yanukovych fled to Moscow from Kiev, claiming his life was in danger.
The resurfacing of the deposed president comes amid reports that the parliament in Crimea has passed a declaration of independence from Ukraine. The development is being reported by the Interfax news agency and the Associated Press. However, the document specifies that Crimea will become an independent state only if its residents vote in favor of joining Russia in a referendum. That vote is expected to take place Sunday.
In his comments, Yanukovych said that he remains the only legitimate leader of the nation and that the United States is giving financial aid to what he called "bandits," a reference to Ukraine's interim government.
The U.S. has pledged a $1 billion package of economic and energy aid to Ukraine and the European Union has offered billions more in assistance.
Yanukovych said scheduled elections in May are not legitimate and he called on the international community to push back against what he views as an "anti-constitutional coup." He said that under U.S. law it is illegal for the U.S. to provide financial assistance to illegitimate governments.
Ukraine's Acting President Oleksandr Turchinov has called for the formation of a national guard and for the mobilization of reserves and volunteers into the country's armed forces in order to counter Russian military aggression, the Associated Press reported.
A member of the Ukraine parliament told USA TODAY on Monday that Ukraine may have to arm itself with nuclear weapons if world powers refuse to enforce a security pact that obligates them to reverse the Moscow-backed takeover of Crimea.
Russian forces have strengthened their control over Ukraine's Crimea region in the run-up to the contentious referendum on whether Crimea will split off and become part of Russia.
Hjelmgaard reported from London.
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