EU, US clash with Russia over Ukraine

Munich, Feb 1: Ukraine’s unrest has sparked angry exchanges at the ongoing Munich conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lashing out at European Union (EU) leaders Saturday over their statements on Ukraine.

The Russian minister said a choice was being imposed on Ukraine and his country was not going to be engaged in that.

During a panel discussion at the 50th Munich Security Conference, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy renewed the offer to Ukraine to join the EU, reported Xinhua.

“What does incitement of violent street protests have to do with the promotion of democracy? Why do we not hear condemnation of those who seize government buildings and attack police and use racist, anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans?” Lavrov said.

Rompuy said: “Our offer is still there and we know time is on our side.”

“Of course, today (Saturday) Ukraine is on all our minds.”

The EU had offered Ukraine a closer association with it, he said, adding “not for free, but upon conditions which were close to fulfilled”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US backed Ukraine’s “fight for democracy”, reported the BBC.

Kerry, who is also scheduled to meet Ukraine opposition leaders Saturday, said: “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine. The US and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight.”

The opposition spilled onto the streets in Ukraine in November 2013 after the country’s president abandoned a trade deal with the EU in favour of closer economic ties with Russia.

At least three protestors and three police officers have been killed and many injured since the protests turned violent Jan 22.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned Jan 28 amid violent protests.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen repeatedly said people in Ukraine should be free to make their own choices.

Rompuy said the future of Ukraine belonged to the EU, citing protestors taking to the streets. Rasmussen, on the other hand, said democratic principles and rule of law must be respected in Ukraine.

The issue of Ukraine is high on the agenda of the security conference, which is an annual event held to discuss military and political affairs.

IANS