ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AFP) - Deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, appearing in public for the first time since he was ousted, said he spoke by telephone to Russian leader Vladimir Putin after arriving in the country but had not yet met with the Kremlin chief.
Speaking at a news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-On-Don, Mr Yanukovych said he had arrived in Russia "thanks to a patriotically-minded young officer" without giving further details.
He said he was forced to leave because of threats to his life and those of his family.
"When I was still in Kiev, I came under gunfire from automatic rifles," Mr Yanukovych said.
"The car that was covering me was hit by bullets from all sides. I didn't flee."
He labeled the current parliament in Kiev as illegitimate.
He said he would only return to Ukraine once his personal security was assured.
He also said that the standoff in Crimea was a "natural reaction" to the "bandit-like" takeover of power by the new authorities in Ukraine.
He said he still saw himself as the Ukrainian president and as such believed that Crimea must remain part of Ukraine.