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6 Dec, 2013 12:23

Russia’s PM rebukes West for taking sides on Ukraine protests

Russia’s PM rebukes West for taking sides on Ukraine protests

Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has criticized the visits of top Western officials to Ukrainian anti-government protests, calling them "interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs."

He was referring to the two-day visit of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to Ukraine for an OSCE summit, which he started Thursday evening with a tour to the heart of the ongoing protest. Accompanied by two of the opposition leaders, the German minister toured Kiev’s Independence Square and European Square, the two main venues for the ongoing demonstrations.

“Excuse me, but taking part in such actions is called simply interference in internal affairs,” Medvedev said about Westerwelle’s visit.

“I wonder how our German partners would feel if, for instance, the Russian Foreign Minister just went to some gathering, which was violating German regulations. I doubt they would take it as a friendly step,” Medvedev said.

Westerwelle is far from the only western political figures who has come to speak to Ukrainian protesters over the past few weeks. Among those flocking to Kiev to cheer the activists were Poland’s ex-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who currently heads the conservative PiS party, Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Loreta Grauziniene, the speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament, and the foreign ministers of the Netherlands and Canada, Frans Timmermans and John Baird, respectively.

Vitaly Klitschko (3rd R, first row), heavyweight boxing champion and UDAR (Punch) party leader, Arseny Yatsenyuk (L, first row), a Ukrainian opposition leader, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski (2nd L, first row), leader of Poland's main opposition Law and Justice Party (PiS), attend a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, December 1, 2013. (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

As he rebuked the parade of approving officials, Medvedev called on the West to let Ukrainians settle their differences on their own.

“All those problems must be taken care of by the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people, not foreigners, not Russia. But other countries must act correctly as well,” he said.

He also dismissed the popular narrative that explains Ukraine’s decision not to sign a key trade agreement with the EU, which sparked the protest, as a result of overwhelming diplomatic pressure from Russia.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (center) gives an interview on the round-up of the Government’s work in 2013 to federal TV channels at the Ostankino TV Center. (RIA Novosti /Alexander Astafyev)

“They made calculations and realized that they are not prepared for it at the moment. It’s their own business. We simply pointed their attention to the problems and said they would face them,” Medvedev said.

Ukraine has been in the grip of mass public protest since late November, when the government announced that it would not sign the much-anticipated Association Agreement with the EU. Pro-EU integration crowds took over main squares in Kiev and also staged protests in other Ukrainian cities.

The confrontation with the government escalated last week with the brutal eviction of a protest camp in the capital, which was followed by violent riots and the seizure of several governmental buildings by the activists.

At the moment, the opposition is demanding the resignation of the government and early presidential election – demands that the authorities reject.