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EU, Russia move to ease tensions over Ukraine

AFP | Last Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 22:41

Kiev: World powers sought to ease tensions over Ukraine on Tuesday as the country`s makeshift government grappled with the threat of economic collapse and separatism after the dramatic ouster of pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych.

EU, Russia move to ease tensions over Ukraine
Russia softened its angry tone over the sudden, weekend regime change in Ukraine, while EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton paid a visit to the ex-Soviet country that Yanukovych had tried to steer towards Moscow but whose new, interim leaders have tilted firmly towards the West.
Furious talks took place between US, European and Russian diplomats as the country appealed for USD 35 billion in aid to avoid bankruptcy and interim leader Oleksandr Turchynov warned of a secessionist threat.

"In several regions of Ukraine there are very dangerous signs of separatism," Turchynov told parliament today, voicing fears that the pro-Russia east could agitate for partition after a pro-Western administration took charge of the country following months of anti-Yanukovych protests.

Russia had initially reacted with fury to the weekend`s rapid-fire political changes -- brought about by last week`s clashes that left nearly 100 dead -- accusing the new leadership of waging an "armed mutiny".
But today Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sought to soften the tone, saying Ukraine should not be forced to choose between Russia and the West.

"We confirmed our principled position of non-intervention in Ukraine`s internal affairs," Lavrov said in Moscow.

"We are interested in Ukraine being part of the European family, in all senses of the word," he said. "It is dangerous and counterproductive to force Ukraine into a choice."

Ashton also sought to ease tensions on her trip to Kiev.

"We offer support, not interference for the future," Ashton told reporters in a bid to discredit claims that the West wants to bring Ukraine into its sphere of influence.

She also stressed "the importance of the strong links between Ukraine and Russia and the importance of having them maintained".

First Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 22:41

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