Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has called for "direct peace talks" between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east to end a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.
At a press conference in Moscow on March 2, Yanukovych vowed to ask the European Union, the United States, and Russia to assist in organizing the talks to reintegrate the territories controlled by the separatists into Ukraine.
"There is only one way to stop the war, which is to start peace talks with the mandatory participation of Donbas [separatists] and international observers," Yanukovych said.
According to Yanukovych, the law on reintegration of the territories under separatist control recently adopted by Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada contradicts the Minsk peace agreements and "clearly shows" that Kyiv "has no desire to solve the crisis peacefully."
Russia-friendly Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014 following months of mass street protests in Ukraine and has been residing in Russia since.
Russia’s subsequent seizure of Crimea and its backing of the separatists in eastern Ukraine have triggered waves of U.S. and EU sanctions targeting Russian officials, companies, and economic sectors.
Yanukovych also said at the press conference that in the note he wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2014, he never asked Putin to send troops to Ukraine.
"I proposed to hold consultations in accordance with a procedure that is stipulated in the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Ukraine and the Russian Federation," Yanukovych said.
Answering a question about the investigation of the killings of Euromaidan activists in February 2014 by snipers in downtown Kyiv, Yanukovych placed the blame on the protesters themselves, saying the buildings that the snipers shot the protesters from were under the activists' control.
Yanukovych has been charged in absentia with high treason, violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity, and other crimes. His trial is under way in Kyiv.