UK & World News

  • 25 February 2014, 19:04

Ukraine: Russia Warns Of 'Dangerous' Dilemma

Forcing Ukraine to choose between close ties with Russia or the West is "dangerous", the Russian foreign minister has warned.

Urging the European Union and the United States not to intervene in shaping the country's future, Sergei Lavrov said: "It's dangerous and counterproductive to try to force upon Ukraine a choice on the principle: 'You are either with us or against us'."

Russia and the West should "use contacts with different political forces in Ukraine to calm the situation down", he added.

Meanwhile, the former heavyweight boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko has revealed he plans to run for the Ukrainian presidency when elections are held in May.

"I will be on the ballot," the opposition leader said.

Mr Lavrov's warning came after acting leaders in Ukraine said they need $35bn (£21bn) to avoid defaulting.

The United States is ready to provide financial support to boost an International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid programme.

An existing $15bn (£9bn) bailout from Russia is also on the table, although Moscow suggested a deal that cuts the price Kiev pays for Russian gas had an expiry date and would have to be renegotiated.

The country's parliament also delayed forming a new government until Thursday.

Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchinov met with officials to discuss "dangerous signs of separatism" in mainly Russian-speaking Crimea where there have been protests against the new leaders in the capital.

Mr Turchinov said: "During the meeting, we discussed the question of not allowing any signs of separatism and threats to Ukraine's territorial integrity (meaning the events which have taken place in Crimea) and punishing people guilty of this."

It follows the ousting as president of Viktor Yanukovych, who is wanted on suspicion of mass murder following violent clashes in the capital Kiev last week.

Parliament adopted a resolution urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to bring Mr Yanukovych and other officials to justice for the violent crackdown on protesters.

The former president's whereabouts remain unknown, although it is thought he may have fled to the Crimean peninsula.

His aide Andriy Klyuev has reportedly been injured by gunfire, although it is not clear whether he was with Mr Yanukovych at the time of the shooting.

The Ukrainian assembly wants the deposed leader to be tried for "serious crimes" by the International Criminal Court in The Hague once he has been captured, although a spokesman for the court said it had not been asked to start an investigation.

At least 82 people have been killed in violent clashes between protesters and riot police during months of unrest.

Police officers in the western city of Lviv knelt in front of demonstrators and told the crowd they were ashamed of the beatings and killings in Kiev last week.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is on a two-day visit to the capital, said the focus must be on getting the country through its immediate troubles, rather than addressing its longer term challenges.

Meanwhile, emergency support for Ukraine is top of the agenda at a meeting between British Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State John Kerry later.

Mr Hague warned the country faces imminent economic collapse without support from the international community.

"Ukraine's financial situation is very serious and without outside assistance may not be sustainable," he told MPs on Monday.

"An economic crisis in Ukraine would be a grave threat to the country's stability and have damaging wider consequences."

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