* Russian minister says can't understand NATO's criticism
* Lavrov says Iran nuclear deal removes need for NATO
* Lavrov asks if NATO plans to intervene in Ukraine,
(Updates with U.S. official, Russia on NATO's missile defence
By Adrian Croft and David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS, Dec 4 Russia criticised "aggressive
actions" by Ukrainian demonstrators and the Western response to
the protests on Wednesday, saying outsiders should not interfere
in Ukraine's affairs.
President Viktor Yanukovich's decision last week to spurn a
trade and cooperation pact with the European Union in favour of
closer ties with Russia has triggered days of mass protests.
"I do not quite understand the scope of the aggressive
actions on the part of the opposition," Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov told a news conference after talks with NATO
foreign ministers in Brussels.
Ukraine's government had used its sovereign right to decide
whether or not to ratify an agreement, Lavrov said.
"I hope that Ukrainian politicians will be able to bring the
situation into a peaceful vein. We encourage everybody not to
interfere," Lavrov said, speaking through an interpreter.
NATO foreign ministers responded to scenes of Ukrainian
police using batons and stun grenades to break up pro-Europe
protests over the weekend by issuing a statement on Tuesday
condemning the use of "excessive force" against protesters.
Lavrov said he did not understand "why NATO adopts such
A senior U.S. State Department official who accompanied
Secretary of State John Kerry to the Brussels meeting said
Lavrov had asked NATO foreign ministers whether their statement
meant the alliance had plans to intervene in Ukraine.
"All allies made clear that this was firmly about supporting
the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for a European future,
that there was no military operation planned in Ukraine, and it
was provocative to discuss that," he said.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton asked
Kerry in a separate meeting to work together with the EU to help
the cash-strapped Ukrainian government and the opposition work
on a road map back to Europe and to the International Monetary
Fund, the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
Lavrov said he argued in the talks with NATO ministers that
the alliance would have no need to push ahead with its plans to
build a missile defence system if Iran and world powers reached
a final agreement on Tehran's nuclear programme.
U.S. and NATO plans to build an anti-missile shield around
Western Europe to protect against attack from Iran and North
Korea have been a major irritant in relations with Russia, which
fears the system's interceptors could eventually shoot down its
long-range nuclear missiles.
Last month, Iran and six world powers, including Russia,
clinched an interim deal to curb the Iranian nuclear programme
in exchange for initial sanctions relief.
"We noted that if the arrangement is implemented fully ...
then there will be no reasons for creating a missile defence
system in Europe," Lavrov told reporters.
Kerry and other alliance foreign ministers strongly disputed
Lavrov's contention, the senior State Department official said.
In separate talks with Lavrov, Kerry argued that missile
defence protection was needed because "it is not only about
Iran's nuclear programme, it's also about its ballistic missile
programme, which allows it to deliver other forms of WMD
(weapons of mass destruction) as well," the official said.
(Editing by Ralph Boulton)