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Russian deputy foreign minister pledges help to riots-hit Ukraine

A new wave of riots started in Kiev in the morning of February 18 after opposition supporters tried to march to the building of Verkhovna Rada

MOSCOW, February 20. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia will extend its helping hand to Ukraine in an effort to normalize the situation in the country, which has been rocked by riots, to the extent welcomed by Kiev, a deputy Russian foreign minister said Thursday after returning from the Ukrainian capital.

“Let’s hope that our Ukrainian friends and partners, brothers will normalize the situation at last,” Grigory Karasin said. “We will help that to the extent our Ukrainian partners want.”

“We have held good consultations with our partners in Kiev. [Acting] Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara received me. We had a frank conversation about the situation in the country, on how foreign partners, including the European Union and the United States, react to the situation,” he said, emphasizing that Moscow was for the political solution to the conflict.

Anti-government protests have been underway in Ukraine since November 2013. A new wave of riots started in Kiev in 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.

According to the latest data from the Ukrainian Health Ministry, 67 people have been killed and 562 turned to the Ukrainian capital’s medical institutions for help, with 356 of them hospitalized, since the start of new disorders on Tuesday.

The West should put the ideologists of Ukrainian riots rather than the country’s authorities on its sanctions lists, Karasin also said Thursday.

“The impunity of youth, or, if we speak frankly, radicals and extremists from Maidan [central Kiev’s Independence Square, the symbol of Ukrainian protests] seriously affects the internal political atmosphere in general,” the diplomat said.

“A number of countries are known to have made today some decisions on sanctions against the Ukrainian authorities, against those who ensure law and order,” Karasin said.

“This causes the most negative reaction. Instead of putting the ideologists and organizers of riots on those lists, people who protect law and order are included in them,” he said.

“The well-known word combination ‘double standards’ comes to mind,” the deputy foreign minister added.

The United States earlier on Thursday imposed visa sanctions against 20 Ukrainian government officials Washington deems are to blame for escalation of violence and human rights violations in Ukraine.

The European Union also agreed to introduce visa and asset-related sanctions against Ukrainian officials the EU thinks are responsible for the violence outbreak, as well as anti-riot gear export restrictions.

The diplomat said he had an impression that information warfare was unfolding around the situation in Ukraine.

“When you are in Kiev, you regularly hear assumptions and fabricated facts on the radio, sometimes it is broadcast on television,” he said. “The footage shown by the key television channels corresponds to reality but as a rule this is filmed ‘from one point.’”

“Journalists carry out their work scrupulously, but in my opinion an information war has started,” he said.

Karasin said that the West’s “unilateral support” for those who triggered the Maidan riots did not inspire optimism.

He lamented that Western officials often had “negative reaction regarding the legitimate authorities, the government, the measures taken in Kiev to normalize the situation.”

The Russian diplomat said he had an uneasy feeling about what was going on in Ukraine. “Kiev residents now look like people who are very much preoccupied, anxious and losing their faith in tomorrow.”

He said there were “combat brigades” of young people with sticks on Maidan and in other parts of central Kiev, adding that there was black smoke on the streets.

Karasin recommended Russians visiting Kiev to be cautious.

“Judging by the situation in Kiev, you need to be cautious. People who go to Kiev will quickly face a heavy moral atmosphere,” he said.

The deputy foreign minister pledged that Russian diplomats would monitor the situation and take care of Russians in Ukraine.

Ukraine has been hit by anti-government protests, 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.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov resigned on January 28.