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MUNICH, February 01, 17:14 /ITAR-TASS/. Western politicians have a somewhat strange understanding of the Ukrainian people’s free choice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday at the 50th Munich Security Conference currently underway in the Bavarian capital.
Lavrov was commenting on statements by his counterparts from the European Union and the United States that they are convinced Ukraine is choosing closer integration with Europe.
Anti-government protests have been ongoing in Ukraine since Kiev refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union at a summit in Vilnius in November and decided to seek closer ties with Russia instead.
“European Council President [Herman] Van Rompuy just spoke from this rostrum. He said the Ukrainian nation has to make its choice, but added that he was convinced that Ukraine’s future is in the European Union,” Lavrov said.
“My friend, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also spoke here. He also spoke of the necessity to give Ukraine freedom of choice,” he said.
“I will also cite the words of a US Department of State spokesperson who said the United States hopes that a government will be formed in Ukraine that will ensure political unity and economic prosperity backed by the IMF and meeting the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for a European future,” the Russian foreign minister said.
“If this is a confirmation of freedom of choice, then such freedom for the Ukrainian people is interpreted in a rather strange way,” he said. “The choice is being imposed, which is what we, Russia, do not want to and will not do.”
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the US Department of State, told a press briefing on Wednesday: “We have urged the Ukrainian Government and the opposition to ensure that the new government is one that fosters political unity, economic health supported by the IMF, and meets the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for a European future.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, who led Ukraine's cabinet of ministers since December 13, 2012, tendered his resignation Tuesday. President Viktor Yanukovich accepted it.
A second wave of protest demonstrations occurred in Ukraine after parliament passed a set of laws toughening punishment for public order violations on January 16. Protesters stormed and seized government buildings. Three protesters are believed to have been killed. The Interior Ministry says up to 200 policemen have been injured. The laws were later repealed.