By Andrew Osborn
LONDON Feb 23 Britain warned Russia on Sunday
against intervening in Ukraine's "complex" crisis, saying London
wanted to contribute to an international economic programme
aimed at shoring up the "desperately difficult" situation of the
In comments that may anger Moscow, British Foreign Secretary
William Hague said his government was in regular contact with
the Russian government to try to persuade it that closer ties
between Ukraine and the European Union should not worry it.
"If there's an economic package, it will be important that
Russia doesn't do anything to undermine that economic package
and is working in cooperation and support of it," Hague told BBC
When asked if he was worried that Russia might "send in the
tanks" to defend the interests of Russian-speakers in eastern
Ukraine, Hague warned against what he called "external duress"
or Russian intervention.
"It would really not be in the interests of Russia to do any
such thing. We have to keep up the communication with Russia as
we are doing ... so that the people of Ukraine can choose their
own way forward. There are many dangers and uncertainties."
Ukraine's parliament voted to remove President Viktor
Yanukovich on Saturday after three months of street protests,
while his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko hailed opposition
demonstrators as "heroes" in an emotional speech in Kiev after
she was released from jail.
The crisis began as protests against Yanukovich's decision
to abandon a trade agreement with the European Union in favour
of closer ties with Russia, which promised to lend Ukraine $15
billion. Ukraine needs the money -- foreign investment inflows
fell by almost half last year, to a net $2.86 billion from $4.13
billion in 2012
Britain has so far assumed a lower profile on Ukraine than
countries such as Germany and Poland, though Prime Minister
David Cameron spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin last
Thursday about the situation there and Hague said he'd be
talking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday.
Hague said the priority was to persuade Moscow that the fate
of Ukraine - a country that was part of the Soviet Union and has
been within Russia's sphere of influence for decades - was not
what he called "a zero-sum game" and that closer ties with the
EU were not a bad thing.
"It's in the interests of the people of Ukraine to be able
to trade more freely with the EU. It's the interests of the
people of Russia for that to happen as well."
He said he didn't know what Russia's "next reaction" would
be, but he pushed the Ukrainian opposition to move urgently to
form a government of national unity, agree arrangements for new
elections, and to crack on with shoring up the economy.
"While all this has been happening, the Ukrainian economy is
in a desperately difficult situation," Hague said. "And they
need an economic programme that the rest of us, through the
International Monetary Fund and other institutions, can support
so that they can stave of an even more serious economic