Russia raps NATO over Ukraine
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday accused NATO of interfering in Ukrainian affairs, saying he did not understand why it felt it had the right to do so.
"I do not understand why NATO adopts such statements," Lavrov said of a declaration Tuesday by the alliance calling for dialogue between the government and protesters angry at its decision to ditch an EU association accord.
Lavrov said he also did not understand how NATO head Anders Fogh Ramussen could even reply to a question earlier about possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
"I cannot understand why such questions are asked," Lavrov told a press conference after a NATO-Russia Council meeting also attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
"It helps to create a distorted picture and sends a wrong signal which may cause wrong understanding," he said through an interpreter.
Whether Ukraine seeks closer ties with the European Union is "a domestic issue," he said, adding that he equally could not understand "the scope of the aggressive actions of the opposition."
President Viktor Yanukovych dropped the accord just before a setpiece summit late last month with the EU after Russia made clear the former Soviet state would pay a high price for deserting Moscow's fold.
The decision sparked violent protests in Kiev and dismay in Brussels which saw the association deal as a major achievement in bringing Eastern Europe closer to the EU.
In its declaration Tuesday, NATO condemned the "use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators in Ukraine.
"We urge the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue and launch a reform process," it added.
Ukraine is a partner of NATO, the military alliance formed in the Cold War to counter the Soviet Union, but Moscow jealously guards its influence in former Soviet states.
Separately, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Wednesday warned the opposition to stop escalating the country's worst political crisis in a decade as his government sought to hold talks with Brussels and Moscow.
"I am announcing a call to stop an escalation of political tensions," Azarov said, arguing that the protests were being manipulated for political ends.
© 2013 AFP