Moscow (AFP) - Ukraine's ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych said Friday he regretted "not having called in the army and declared martial law" in his bid to crush a pro-EU revolt in February 2014.
"My biggest mistake was, I could not, I did not find the strength in me to sign the decree to call in the army and introduce martial law," Kremlin-backed Yanukovych told reporters in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia.
"It would have been the only way to stop the radicals, but I couldn't bring myself to resort to a bloodbath," said the ousted leader, who fled Kiev on February 21, 2014, and who eventually escaped from the country altogether for Russia.
Ukraine's so-called Euromaidan protests lasted three months and culminated in a bloodbath that claimed the lives of more than 100 largely unarmed people and about 20 anti-riot police.
The use of live ammunition against civilians left the nation in shock, and Yanukovych himself is wanted for "mass murder" of protesters.
Russia was furious because it had wanted to enlist Ukraine in its own political and economic bloc that could stand up to the European Union and possibly even NATO.
Moscow labelled Yanukovych's ouster a Western-orchestrated coup. It responded by annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and then witnessed the outbreak of a pro-Moscow separatist war in Ukraine's east that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.