Crimea Annexation Is a 'Tragedy,' Says Ousted Viktor Yanukovych

Image: Pro-Russian protesters carry a giant Russian flag in Donetsk, Ukraine
Pro-Russian protesters carry a giant Russian flag as they march to block a main railway station in Donetsk, Ukraine, 30 March 2014.ROMAN PILIPEY / EPA

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Russia's annexation of Crimea is "a tragedy,” Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovych said Wednesday as he expressed hope that the Black Sea peninsula could return to Ukrainian control.

In his first interview since fleeing Kiev following weeks of protests in February, the one-time ally of Moscow told The Associated Press he hoped to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the conditions under which Crimea could rejoin Ukraine.

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych reacts during the interview with The Associated Press, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Wednesday. He said he would have done everything possible to prevent it had he remained in power.Ivan Sekretarev / AP

His comments came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry that he was concerned at NATO's decision to suspend cooperation with Moscow, according to a Reuters report.

NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday suspended all practical cooperation with Russia in protest at its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

- Alastair Jamieson