Russia and West seek to soothe Ukraine tension | News | DW | 26.02.2014
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Russia and West seek to soothe Ukraine tension

Russian and Western diplomats have signaled a desire for calm as the dust settles from the fall of ex-President Viktor Yanukoych's government. Efforts are also underway to help the country stave off imminent bankruptcy.

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No sign yet of new Ukraine government

As Ukraine's interim government sought to grapple with the threat of economic collapse on Tuesday, weeks of disagreement between major powers gave way to a more conciliatory tone.

EU and US diplomats visited the country, while Russia appeared to soften its response to the weekend collapse of President Viktor Yanukovych's regime.

Deputy US Secretary of State William Burns arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday to meet opposition figures. Meanwhile, his boss John Kerry said the country should not be subject to a tug of war from either side after weeks of accusation and counter accusation between Russia and the West.

"This is not a zero-sum game," said Kerry "Not a (case of) West versus East. This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future."

A popular uprising against Yanukovych began late in November when, as president, he backed out of an association deal with the EU to pursue closer links with Moscow. It effectively came to an end on Saturday when Yanukovych fled the capital and was voted out of office by parliament.

'Part of the European family'

Russia had initially reacted with consternation to the events in Kyiv, which empowered a caretaker administration that publicly leans more to the West than it does to Moscow. Moscow initially recalled its ambassador to Kyiv for "consultations," having accused Western diplomats of encouraging unrest and denouncing protest leaders as extremists.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday said Ukraine should not be forced to choose between Russia and the West.

"We are interested in Ukraine being part of the European family, in all senses of the word," said Lavrov, vowing non-intervention on Moscow's part. "It is dangerous and counterproductive to force Ukraine into a choice."

Financial help in the pipeline

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Europe offered "support not interference" and stressed "the importance of strong links between Ukraine and Russia and the importance of having them maintained."

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday said it was likely to send a technical support team to Ukraine soon, with the country rapidly running out of cash. However, Ukraine's parliament has yet to vote on a new government before it can formally ask for international assistance. Ukrainian officials have already suggested they would need $35 billion (25.4 billion euros) over the next two years.

"We need to engage in a dialogue in which the Ukrainian authorities, once designated, will seek out the help and support of the IMF," said IMF head Christine Lagarde.

Meanwhile, there were protests in the southern, largely pro-Russian peninsula region of Crimea against the new administration, with demonstrators describing the new government as "bandits." There are fears that regions like Crimea may try to push for separation from the rest of the country.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukrainian lawmakers voted to refer the case of ousted President Yanukovych to the ICC. Yanukovych remains at large, being wanted for "mass murder" in the wake of last week's shootings amid protest in Kyiv in which more than 80 people were said to have been killed.

rc/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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