EU, Russia bid to calm tensions over Ukraine

2014-02-26 07:13
Ukrainian opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko talks to local and foreign media as his security stands by at central Kiev Independence square. (Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP)

Ukrainian opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko talks to local and foreign media as his security stands by at central Kiev Independence square. (Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kiev - World powers sought to ease tensions over Ukraine on Tuesday as the country's interim authorities grappled with the threat of economic collapse and separatism after the dramatic ouster of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia softened its angry tone over the sudden, weekend regime change in Ukraine, while senior EU and US diplomats visited the ex-Soviet country that Yanukovych had tried to steer towards Moscow but whose new leaders have tilted firmly towards the West.

Frantic talks took place between US, European and Russian diplomats as Ukraine appealed for $35bn in aid to avoid bankruptcy and interim president Oleksandr Turchynov warned of a secessionist threat.

The European Union had said it stood ready to give conditional financial assistance to Ukraine.

"In several regions of Ukraine there are very dangerous signs of separatism," Turchynov told parliament on Tuesday, voicing fears that the pro-Russia east could push for partition after a pro-Western administration took charge of the country following months of anti-Yanukovych protests.

‘Support not interference’

Russia had initially reacted with fury to the weekend's rapid-fire political changes - brought about by last week's clashes that left nearly 100 dead - accusing the new leadership of waging an "armed mutiny".

But on Tuesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sought to soften the tone, saying Ukraine should not be forced to choose between Russia and the West.

"We confirmed our principled position of non-intervention in Ukraine's internal affairs," Lavrov said in Moscow.

"We are interested in Ukraine being part of the European family, in all senses of the word," he said. "It is dangerous and counterproductive to force Ukraine into a choice."

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also sought to calm tensions during a press conference in Kiev.

"We offer support, not interference for the future," Ashton told reporters in a bid to downplay claims that the West wants to bring Ukraine into its sphere of influence.

She also stressed "the importance of the strong links between Ukraine and Russia and the importance of having them maintained".

Ashton however offered no concrete commitments of economic assistance, saying only that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was "very keen" to meet the future new government.

Klitschko for president

The tumultuous events of the past week have capped more than three months of relentless protests against Yanukovych's rule sparked by his November decision to spurn a historic pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

One of the stars to emerge during this unrest was Vitali Klitschko, a heavyweight world champion boxer who became one of the three major protest leaders.

The tall 42-year-old has managed to use his sporting credentials to bridge traditional divides in Ukraine between the more nationalist West and pro-Russia East and South, and as such enjoys wide popularity.

Klitschko announced on Tuesday he would stand for president in polls set for 25 May, shortly after the electoral commission officially kicked off the campaign for elections.

And while Ukraine's opposition-dominated parliament on Tuesday delayed the highly anticipated formation of a new government until Thursday, it voted to apply to the International Criminal Court to prosecute Yanukovych over the "mass murder" of protesters.

Yanukovych, however, has disappeared since he reportedly attempted to flee the country on Saturday from the eastern city of Donetsk.

An East-West battle?

The new government will face the tough task of maintaining financial and territorial stability in Ukraine ahead of the May polls.

On Sunday, thousands of people rallied in the southern port city of Sevastopol - home to Russia's Black Sea fleet for some 200 years and a bastion of pro-Moscow sentiment - calling for "Mother Russia" to save them.

Several hundreds still protested on Tuesday, while two armoured vehicles were deployed near Russian military installations in the city centre, in what local media said was a bid to respond to potential "terrorist attacks".

Later on Tuesday, the United States and Britain voiced support for Ukraine, vowing it should not be seen as a battleground between East and West.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, after talks with his US counterpart John Kerry, stressed Ukraine's territorial integrity.

"This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East," said Kerry. "This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future."

Hague said: "This is a country that needs financial assistance from many sources, including from Russia. It's not about pulling them away from Russia. It's about enabling them to make their own choices."

He also held talks with officials from the IMF and is due to visit Ukraine soon.

Deputy US Secretary of State William Burns arrived in Kiev on Tuesday and met Klitschko.

In Washington, Vice President Joe Biden, the US pointman on Ukraine, met Didier Burkhalter, leader of Switzerland and current head of the 57-nation Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which is seeking a leading role during Ukraine's political transition.

Biden and Burkhalter "consulted on the current situation in Ukraine, including what support the United States and the OSCE could offer to help return the country to peace and stability", a White House statement said.

Read more on:    imf  |  eu  |  vitali klitschko  |  oleksandr turchynov  |  john kerry  |  sergei lavrov  |  viktor yanukovych  |  ukraine  |  ukraine protests
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

BMW drift battle: M235i vs. speedway bike

Watch this insane drift contest with four-times dirt-track World champion Karl Maier riding a speedway bike against a BMW M235i.

 
 

Men24.com

Want to start talking dirty?
Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Enjoy the view because as from tomorrow you are going to need to come back down to earth and join the party. In the meantime use...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.