Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the EU of trying to create a “sphere of influence” in Ukraine and warned the West against interfering in the crisis. He said also that Russia is ready to mediate between the authorities and the opposition in Kiev.
“We believe Ukrainians themselves should find a way out of the political crisis,” Lavrov said in a press conference with his German colleague Frank Walter Steinmeier. “We expect all other partners of Ukraine to follow the same principle,” he added.
“But dragging Ukraine to one side, telling it that it needs to choose ‘either or’ — either with the EU or with Russia — [the European Union] is, in fact, trying to create such a sphere of influence,” Lavrov said. “That is obvious and no nice words can change that.”
“It seems it is not correct and polite to speak about freedom of choice and at the same time send envoys every day, without invitation, to spend time in Kiev trying to convince the Ukrainian leadership in the same choice that is pushed by the European Union itself and the United States as well,” he said.
As is known, the Ukrainian crisis began when president Viktor Yanukovych failed to sign a broad agreement already negotiated with the EU and instead accepted a brand new bailout from Moscow. The pro western opposition that started massive protests against the Government thinks that Yanukovych did so following direct orders from the Kremlin. They fear that Russia has plans to include Ukraine in its Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. They don’t want to enter the Customs Union but maintain their relations with the west and the EU instead. So the crisis it is a question of either one side or other side. No one can ignore it. The country is highly divided.
What Lavrov says makes sense if Russia does what he recommends to the EU: don’t interfere, don’t create a sphere of influence. But that is impossible, because the Russian sphere of influence already exists. Russia is already playing with the bailout to put pressure on Ukraine. The situation is very difficult to solve. There has been already a Government crisis in Ukraine. If the Ukrainians don’t reach by themselves an agreement to clarify the political situation, some kind of mediation will be needed, because a permanent situation of protests and demonstrations cannot be maintained forever.
According to Lavrov Russia would be the great mediator. “We will not mind acting as a mediator between the authorities and the opposition if the authorities and the opposition themselves ask us to do so,” he said. But in the Ukrainian opposition field Russia is perceived as supporter of the other side (the pro-Russian side) with a lot of interests in the game.
Frank Walter Steinmeier