Viktor Yanukovych Accepts Blame For Ukraine Bloodshed, Defends Zoo At His Residence

MOSCOW, Russia -- "I supported the ostriches. What's wrong with that?"They say history is written by the victors.

Ukraine's deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Deposed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych has guaranteed himself at least a paragraph of his own with his latest interview.

Speaking to BBC's Newsnight, the former president accepted some blame for the bloodshed in Kiev's Maidan Square that preceded his overthrow in February 2014.

"I don't deny my responsibility," he said, though he added that he had not ordered his security forces to open fire on demonstrators.

But the oddest moment of the interview was when he defended the magnificent opulence of his personal residence, which was exposed soon after he fled.

The compound included a vintage car collection, private golf course and boxing ring - and a zoo with pigs, gnus and ostriches.

But the receipts that were found showing millions of dollars spent on the complex were just political spin, he said.

And the ostriches?

"I supported the ostriches, what's wrong with that?" he said.

"They just lived there. What am I supposed to do, go around with my eyes closed?

"Ok, it was one territory (at the residence) but I had 1.7 hectares attached to my home. They weren't just wandering around."

But he said he didn't spend time with the ostriches, because "I was working. Even though I do love animals."

He said he had paid for the residence with his own money.

Asked about expenses of €1.7 million ($2.47 million) on its wooden furniture he said it "does not belong to me personally and never did belong to me".

Yanukovych now lives near Moscow, after he was rescued from Ukraine in a Russian secret services operation which President Vladimir Putin claims to have personally overseen.

Putin "saved my life", Yanukovych said.

His downfall led to Russia's annexation of Crimea and the separatist rebellion in Ukraine's east, which has seen thousands of deaths and continuing conflict – all of which he blames on the group that ousted him.

"Of course, among others I am to blame as well," he told Newsnight, about the events that led to his downfall.

"Probably I didn't do enough."

He has previously claimed the mass shooting of unarmed protesters in the Maidan was staged in order to trigger a coup.

"I don't have any information, any facts that anyone gave the order to fire on protesters," he told the BBC.

"I was categorically against it.

"I did not give any orders, that was not my responsibility. I said publicly I was against the use of force, let alone the use of firearms."

However asked if he shared some responsibility for the tragedy as head of state, he said "of course, I don't deny my responsibility".

Yanukovych said the annexation of Crimea was a "tragedy" for the Ukrainian state and "we need today to find a way out of this situation".

But he did not say how Crimea could be returned, asking "do we need another war?"

He hopes one day to return to Ukraine, he said.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald