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Ukraine crisis: Lavrov warns on 'the pretext of freedom'

February 14, 2014, 15:28 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier agreed that Ukraine had to find its own way to defuse the political crisis
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

© EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV

MOSCOW, February 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia's top diplomat warned on Friday against "a sphere of influence being created" as Ukraine confronted a choice between relations with the European Union and "obligations and privileges" it enjoys through association with Russia and the former Soviet republics.

Ukraine had to find its own way to defuse the political crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier agreed at a meeting on Friday.

“We have not forced them to make a certain choice,” Lavrov said. But Ukraine had been told "planned signing of the European Union association agreement, kept and prepared in secret and published only after being initialled, contained commitments contradicting obligations and privileges Ukraine has within the free trade zone of the CIS countries," he said in reference to the Commonwealth of Independent States association of former Soviet republics.

On this issue, Lavrov said "we have told them they must choose". "We have never forced them to opt for the Eastern vector of development, understanding that this is counterproductive for Ukrainian society.”

“Our European partners say Ukraine should be free to choose European integration,” the minister noted. But, he warned, choice should not be enforced "on the pretext of freedom”, insisting there should be no spheres of influence in settling the Ukrainian issue.

“But in drawing Ukraine over to one side and warning it to choose between either the EU or Russia, this sphere of influence is being created,” he said, adding that there was no opposition to mediation between the government and the opposition.

This was, however, only in the event that the authorities and the opposition sought it themselves, he said, adding: “We are not going to impose intermediary services.”

Looking to wider horizons, Lavrov recalled discussion at the recent Russia-EU summit on distancing politics from economic processes.

European partners had agreed to explore a relationship between the European Union and the proposed six-state Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, he said.

When "conditions of economic co-operation" had been adjusted, "we will be interested in creating a free trade zone between the EU and EurAsEC", the minister added.

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