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Russia says Ukraine may spin out of control

A woman takes pictures as she stands near a bus burnt down during recent demonstrations organized by pro-European integration supporters in Kiev January 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)

MOSCOW/KIEV: Russia told European governments Tuesday to stop meddling in Ukraine’s political crisis and said events could be spinning out of control in Kiev after violence left vehicles burning in the streets.

Moscow, which sees its fellow former Soviet Republic as part of its traditional sphere of influence, has watched nervously as protests against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to shun a trade pact with the European Union have turned violent.

Scores of police and demonstrators have been hurt since the president, who received a multibillion dollar bailout package from Moscow after he spurned the EU deal, angered opponents by signing sweeping laws to curb public protests.

Criticizing “members of certain European governments” for visiting the protesters in Kiev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “We would prefer that some of our European colleagues refrained from acting unceremoniously over the Ukrainian crisis.

“It is just distasteful,” he said, adding that such action had helped encourage the protests.

In December, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Guido Westerwelle, at the time Germany’s foreign minister, visited the protesters.

EU ministers have also denounced the new laws curbing public protests as “anti-democratic.”

Lavrov criticized the protesters for using “violence, attacks on police, arson, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices” and he called their behavior a “complete violation of all European standards of behavior.”

Russian state television has been repeatedly showing footage of the clashes and what appears to be protesters smashing the windows of a bus, underlining the case for the tough legislation and police action to curb violence.

“I personally think that these calls for prudence, which the leaders of the opposition and Vitaly Klitschko in particular are now making, show that the situation is spinning out of control,” Lavrov said.

One of Lavrov’s deputies, Grigory Karasin, spoke by telephone with a Ukrainian deputy foreign minister Tuesday and expressed “concern about provocative actions by radical opposition forces,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

It said Russia supported a Ukrainian statement that promised the government would do all it can to resolve the situation peacefully through dialogue – a pledge some opposition protesters suspect was a bid to buy time.

“We are waiting to see what these talks produce, but there’s little hope. Yanukovich is pretending he does not see us or hear us,” said Vasyl Somkovych, 30, a protester from the region of Ivano-Frankivsk in largely pro-European western Ukraine.

In Kiev, a presidential aide ruled out the declaration of a state of emergency to quell the unrest.

Asked by a journalist if the presidency was considering such a step, Andriy Klyuev, secretary of the National Council of Security and Defense, said: “There will be no declaration of a state of emergency.”

Some 2,000-3,000 protesters faced about 1,000 police in central Kiev Tuesday, where Reuters reporters saw nine burnt-out buses and trucks, smoke wafting from some of the tires.

Cobblestones were strewn across a main street where violence erupted Sunday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 22, 2014, on page 10.

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Summary

Russia told European governments Tuesday to stop meddling in Ukraine's political crisis and said events could be spinning out of control in Kiev after violence left vehicles burning in the streets.

In December, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Guido Westerwelle, at the time Germany's foreign minister, visited the protesters.

It said Russia supported a Ukrainian statement that promised the government would do all it can to resolve the situation peacefully through dialogue – a pledge some opposition protesters suspect was a bid to buy time.

Some 2,000-3,000 protesters faced about 1,000 police in central Kiev Tuesday, where Reuters reporters saw nine burnt-out buses and trucks, smoke wafting from some of the tires.


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