UPDATE 1-Russia say EU seeking "sphere of influence" in Ukraine

Fri Feb 14, 2014 2:54am EST

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(Adds quote, Merkel meeting)

MOSCOW Feb 14 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the European Union on Friday of seeking to create a "sphere of influence" by pressing Ukraine to choose closer ties with the bloc at the expense of relations with Russia.

Lavrov, speaking next to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, issued a warning to the West against interfering in the crisis, saying Ukrainians had to be allowed to resolve matters themselves.

"I fully agree with Frank-Walter that there should be no spheres of influence. 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," he told a joint news conference.

"That is obvious and no nice words can change that."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to meet Ukrainian opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko and Arseny Yatsenyuk in Berlin next Tuesday, according to Bild newspaper. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; writing by Steve Gutterman editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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