efe-epaMoscow

A former Ukrainian president said Wednesday that the current head of state could only win next month's election if it were rigged.

Viktor Yanukovich made his comments to journalists in the Russian capital Moscow during his first speech of this nature since he fled Ukraine back in Feb. 2014 following his ousting on the back of popular uprisings known as the Euromaidan movement, which was named after a square in Kiev where mass protests were staged.

"It will be impossible for President (Petro) Poroshenko (to win) without electoral fraud," Yanukovich told the media.

On Jan. 24, Yanukovich was sentenced to 13 years in prison in absentia by a court in Ukraine after he was found guilty of high treason, a judgment he dismissed on Wednesday.

Yanukovich said Poroshenko had transformed Ukraine into a "focus of war and instability," who would use all the resources at his disposal to remain in power.

The war in eastern Ukraine was helping Poroshenko to maintain his grip on power, he said.

The former president said Poroshenko's leadership had forced 6 million citizens to leave the country to make a life for themselves.

Yanukovich said Poroshenko would not be able to win the election without electoral fraud, as he considered he did not have sufficient support.

The former head of state called on Ukrainians not to give the current government their backing at the polls.

He said the 13-year prison sentence exonerated him from having ordered the shooting of protesters during the months-long protests in Kiev's Maidan Square, which began in Nov. 2013 and eventually led to his ousting as president.

He said his lawyers had asked the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to open an investigation into the shootings.

Yanukovich also said the current Kiev authorities were responsible for the shootings that left more than 100 people dead.

The former president, who fled Ukraine for Russia on Feb. 21, 2014, was removed from power in a parliamentary vote the following day.

Ukrainian citizens are set to head to the polls on Mar. 31.

A recent poll on voting intentions had Poroshenko in third place, with 14.8 percent of the votes, before former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko (19.2 percent) and comedian Vladimir Zelenskiy (21.9 percent).