Russia says: Don't force Ukraine to choose between us and West

MOSCOW Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:37am EST

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov takes part in a news conference in Moscow February 25, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov takes part in a news conference in Moscow February 25, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine must not be forced to choose between close ties with Russia or the West, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

The comment was the latest in a series of warnings from Moscow to the European Union and United States not to try to shape the ex-Soviet state's future.

"It is dangerous and counterproductive to try to force upon Ukraine a choice on the principle: 'You are either with us or against us'," Lavrov told a joint news conference after talks with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn.

Both Russia and the West should "use contacts with different political forces in Ukraine to calm the situation down ... and not seek to achieve unilateral advantages at a time when national dialogue is needed," Lavrov said.

There are concerns that culturally divided Ukraine could potentially come apart after three months of upheaval that forced out the president. Both Russia and the West have emphasized publicly that they do not want this to happen.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France 2 television that nobody was trying to force a choice on Ukraine.

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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