MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged European governments on Tuesday not to interfere in Ukraine’s political crisis and expressed concern that events in Kiev could be spinning out of control.
Moscow, which sees its fellow former Soviet republic as part of its traditional sphere of influence, has watched nervously as protests against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to shun a trade pact with the European Union have turned violent.
Yanukovich, who received a multi-billion dollar bail-out package from Moscow after he spurned the EU deal, has angered protesters by signing sweeping laws to curb public protest.
“We would prefer that some of our European colleagues refrained from acting unceremoniously over the Ukrainian crisis, when, without any kind of invitation, members of certain European governments rush to the Maidan (central square in Kiev), take part in anti-government demonstrations in a country with which they have diplomatic relations,” Lavrov told a news conference.
“It is just distasteful.”
In December, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Guido Westerwelle, at the time Germany’s foreign minister, visited the protesters. EU ministers have denounced the new laws curbing public protest as “anti-democratic”.
Lavrov criticized the protesters for using “violence, attacks on police, arson, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices”, and called their behavior a “complete violation of all European standards of behavior”.
“I personally think that these calls for prudence, which the leaders of the opposition and Vitaly Klitschko in particular are now making, show that the situation is spinning out of control,” Lavrov said.
After Ukrainian parliament forced through a raft of new laws on protests last week, the White House expressed concern that making peaceful protests an offence would weaken Ukraine’s democratic foundation. It threatened sanctions against Kiev.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, in Brussels, called the laws the “most solid package of repressive laws that I have seen enacted by a European parliament for decades”.
Reporting by Steve Gutterman, Writing by Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Timothy Heritage