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Russia says it won’t intervene in Ukraine

Moscow pledged Tuesday it would not intervene in the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine but said the country should not be forced to choose between Russia and the West.

“We confirmed our principled position of non-intervention in Ukraine’s internal affairs and expect that everyone follows similar logic,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“We are interested in Ukraine being part of the European family, in all senses of the word,” he said after talks with Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn.

But he added: “We agree that… it is dangerous and counterproductive to force Ukraine into a choice — either you are with us or against us.”

His remarks signalled a possible softening of Moscow’s stance after harsh statements both by Lavrov’s own ministry and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday.

Medvedev had accused Ukraine’s new leadership of waging an “armed mutiny” and said there was noone for Moscow to communicate with in Kiev.

President Vladimir Putin has remained silent on the regime change in the former Soviet republic and the situation in Ukraine was not mentioned when Russian state channels interviewed him in Sochi on Tuesday.

Asselborn struck a conciliatory tone, saying it was necessary to maintain historic ties between Russia and Ukraine.

He also said Ukraine’s stability could only be a product of a broad dialogue that must include Russia, both on political reforms and financial aid.

Asselborn said the 25 billion euros Ukraine says it needs to stave off collapse was an “enormous sum” but added: “We understand that the country is close to financial ruin.”

Russia has put its $15 billion loan to Ukraine on hold in the wake of the crisis after transferring an initial tranche of $3 billion.

“We want the resources to go toward real reforms in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

– National reconciliation –

He said it was important for Ukraine to reinstate law and order and bring about national reconciliation and constitutional reform before a planned May 25 presidential election.

“We would like to understand how the government which will be formed will view these key goals.”

Moscow had denounced the opposition in Kiev for weeks as gun-toting extremists and even neo-Nazis, and on Sunday recalled its ambassador in Kiev for consultations.

The foreign ministry on Monday said the new leaders were using dictatorial and even “terrorist” methods in bringing Russian-speaking regions under their control.

Russia has denounced measures seen in Moscow as anti-Russian, notably the decision to repeal a law introduced in 2012 that elevated the status of the Russian language in regions where it is widely spoken.

The foreign ministry also Tuesday lashed out at the toppling of a statue of Russian field marshal Mikhail Kutuzov in the western city of Lviv, calling it a “barbaric and Russophobic action.”

“We demand that the new Ukrainian authorities stop this lawlessness,” it said.

On Tuesday, an activist climbed on to the roof of the parliament in Kiev and dismantled the Soviet star from the pinnacle of the Stalin-era building.