Former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych has spoken to BBC journalist Gabriel Gatehouse in Russia and conceded that he shared responsibility for the events in Ukraine in 2014 which led to the deaths of protesters and his overthrow.
More than 100 protesters were killed in Kiev’s Maidan square after a clash erupted between them and Ukrainian security forces.
Demonstrators demanding closer relations with Europe instead of Russia toppled then-president Yanukovych after long lasting protests on the streets of the Ukrainian capital Kiev in February 2014. Yanukovych was then taken to a safe haven in Russian borders by Russian officials.
A change of government following Yanukovych’s departure triggered a chain of events starting with the Russian annexation of Crimea and declarations of unilateral independence in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, which were followed by a still continuing civil war that has claimed thousands of lives.
Yanukovych said during the interview that although he did not order security forces to shoot the protesters, he also did not take enough caution to avoid the killings.
“I don't deny my responsibility, I did not give any orders [to use firearms], that was not my authority… I was against any use of force, let alone the use of firearms, I was against bloodshed,” Yanukovych said.
"But the members of the security forces fulfilled their duties according to existing laws. They had the right to use weapons."
Yanukovych also criticised his opponents, saying “they should not have carried out a military coup - they should not have drawn in radical far-right forces."
"I warned that they would not stop at Maidan - that they would go further. And they went further. … They've broken up the country. They've drawn the whole world into this conflict."
‘Putin saved my life’
Yanukovych also said that by sending special forces to take him to a safe haven in Russia, President Vladimir Putin saved his life.
"The fact that Vladimir Putin took that decision, on the recommendation of his own special forces, that was his right and his business. He did not consult me,” he added.
"I am, of course, grateful to him [Putin] for giving the order and helping my security to get me out, and save my life," he said, adding that he believed his life was still in danger.
Annexation of Crimea and war
Speaking about Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war between Ukrainian forces and the separatists, Yanukovych said that it has been a “tragedy” and a “nightmare that had become a reality.”
"What happened there was very bad. And we need, today, to find a way out of this situation... Now there is war. They talk about getting Crimea back. How? By war? Do we need another war," he added.
“It is a tragedy of the Ukrainian state. Look at what’s happened: the country is divided, people are poor.”
Over 6,400 people have been killed in the fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists which started in April 2014 after the separatists gained control of large parts of the two regions.
Mentioning allegations that he engaged in corruption, Yanukovych denied all the accusations including that he stole Ukrainian state funds and hid money in foreign banks.
"Yes, there was corruption, no one denies that. But a year and a half has passed, those in power have all the means at their disposal. Show us, where are the bank accounts of Yanukovych? They don't exist and never have done," he told Gatehouse.
Yanukovych has been on Interpol’s wanted list since the Ukrainian government made accusations that he embezzled public funds money.