AL KUWAIT, February 20, /ITAR-TASS/. - Russia calls on world leaders to “place the interests of Ukraine and its people ahead of their own geopolitical plans,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah.
“What is going on in Ukraine causes the deepest concern. We have repeatedly warned against such developments,” Lavrov said on Wednesday. “The Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry have given principled assessments of what is going on there.”
Anti-government protests have been underway in Ukraine, often resulting in violent clashes, since the country’s authorities refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union at a Vilnius summit in November 2013, choosing closer ties with Russia instead.
A new wave of riots started in Kiev on the morning of February 18 after opposition supporters tried to march to the building of Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, in support of a constitutional reform cutting presidential powers. Some 26 people have been killed and nearly 800 injured in clashes between protesters and law enforcers.
“Unfortunately, all agreements that were reached when the Ukrainian leadership displayed goodwill and readiness to seek compromises, implementing its part of commitments, these agreements were disrupted by opposition activists, radicals who organized the march to the parliament,” Lavrov said.
“It is being revealed that those radicals had not only small arms but grenade launchers. All this is very serious,” he said.
“The blame certainly lies with the extremists who have been trying, over all those weeks and months, to bring the situation to such a strong-arm scenario,” the Russian foreign minister emphasized.
“But a solid part of the responsibility lies with the oppositionists who rejected compromises and put forward demands to the authorities in an unequal legal field and eventually proved unable to fulfill what had been agreed upon, including in parliament,” he said.
The Ukrainian authorities adopted tougher laws for public order violations in mid-January, which triggered another wave of protests that sometimes turned violent, with three protesters believed to have been killed, and up to 200 police injured by that time. The laws were later repealed.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov resigned on January 28, and the Ukrainian leadership decided to pardon participants in riots on condition protesters vacated state and local power institutions they seized. The amnesty law entered into force February 2, but opposition leaders reacted defiantly.
Protesters had time until February 17 to vacate seized state and local power institutions, unblock Grushevskogo Street in downtown Kiev near Maidan (downtown Kiev square, the symbol of Ukrainian protests) and other streets and squares across the country except those where peaceful protest rallies were being held. But riots and seizures of buildings continued on Tuesday.
“I cannot but also speak about the responsibility borne by the West, at least many Western countries, who have tried in every possible way to interfere in the stream of events, encouraging the opposition to act beyond the legal framework,” the minister continued.
“At that, they persistently, consecutively and shyly enough avoided giving principled assessments to the actions of extremists, including neo-Nazi and anti-Semite manifestations,” Lavrov said.
“We have repeatedly drawn their attention and warned them about the extreme danger of such an ostrich position,” he said. “And now they are trying to shift the blame to us.”
“We confirm that the situation should be regulated within the framework of the constitutional prerogative of Ukraine’s incumbent authorities and warn against attempts of obtrusive mediation,” Lavrov said. “We have observed such attempts more than once.”
“It seems to me that our European partners have mediated enough. We are calling on everyone in this situation to place the interests of Ukraine, the interests of the Ukrainian people ahead of their own geopolitical plans,” he said.
“We will support any forms of external contribution to crisis settlement by the incumbent Ukrainian authorities, within the framework of the Ukrainian constitutional field,” the top Russian diplomat said. “But it is up to the authorities and opposition that represents a certain part of the population in the Verkhovna Rada to decide.”
“We do not want to impose ourselves, as our Western partners are trying to do too obtrusively, and do not advise others [to do so as] it only harms the cause,” he concluded.