Russia condemns Ukraine protests as `coup attempt`
Moscow: Russia condemned the deadly unrest in neighbouring Ukraine as a coup attempt on Wednesday, with President Vladimir Putin blaming the opposition for the biggest escalation in three months of anti-government protests.
"In the president`s opinion, all the responsibility for what is happening now in Ukraine lies specifically with extremists," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, cited by the RIA Novosti news agency.
"Their actions can be seen and are seen in Moscow exclusively as an attempted coup d`etat," he said.
At least 26 people died in clashes between protesters and police that began in Kiev`s main protest square on Tuesday.
In a separate statement, the foreign ministry called on the opposition to immediately end the violence.
"The Russian side demands that the leaders of the `square` end the bloodshed in their country," the ministry said.
It also urged opposition leaders to "immediately renew dialogue with the lawful authorities without threats and ultimatums."
Calling Ukraine a "brother" country, the ministry added: "We will use all our influence to restore peace and calm."
Speaking during a visit to Kuwait, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western powers of meddling in Ukrainian affairs.
"We are cautioning against attempts at intrusive mediation. We have seen such attempts more than once. I think our European partners have done quite enough mediating," he said at a press conference, cited by the Interfax news agency.
Kremlin spokesman Peskov said Putin and his embattled Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych had a "telephone conversation last night".
But he denied claims that Putin was pulling strings in the crisis and reiterated that Moscow would not interfere.
"Russia`s president never has and does not give advice to his Ukrainian colleague about what to do, and how... and does not plan to give such advice in the future," the spokesman said.
"The position of the Russian leadership and the Russian president on the Ukrainian events is to await a speedy resolution of this situation," he added.
"How this resolution takes place from the point of view of the Russian president is exclusively the prerogative of the legitimate authorities."
Yanukovych in November scrapped a trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia, horrifying those Ukrainians who favour EU integration and prompting the first street protests.
In December, Yanukovych visited Moscow and secured a $15 billion bailout deal and a huge price cut for Russian gas.
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