Munich: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rounded on the European Union on Saturday, accusing its leaders of interfering in Ukraine`s internal affairs and helping stoke violent anti-government protests.
"Why are many prominent EU politicians actually encouraging such actions although back home they are quick to severely punish any violations of the law?" Lavrov told a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference.
"What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?," he said in response to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who earlier said Ukraine must be free to choose its own future, a future which lay in Europe.
"Why don`t we hear condemnation of those who seize and hold government buildings, attack the police, torture police, use racist and anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans?" Lavrov said.
EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton is due to visit Kiev again next week, having previously met the government and opposition figures several times there to call for a peaceful dialogue.
Other prominent figures have also been frequent visitors to Kiev, drawing a strong government and Russian response although Lavrov`s remarks Saturday were unusually blunt in comparison.
Describing the situation in Ukraine as raising "fundamental questions" about EU-Russia relations, he said that in this case "a choice is being imposed."
Europe`s future should "not be about new spheres of influence... It should be about how all countries" cooperate in the interest of all, he said.
The EU and Russia have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych ditched an EU association accord in November under pressure from a Moscow seen to be trying to bring its former Soviet satellite back into the fold.
Yanukovych`s decision sparked off massive anti-government protests, which turned increasingly violent last month after he rushed through a series of curbs on protests.