Russia Criticizes 'Blatant Pressure' On Ukraine As Protests Continue
December 18, 2013
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has criticized what he called 'blatant pressure' being exerted on the Ukrainian government, a veiled reference to EU efforts to convince Kyiv to sign a pact on closer relations.
Speaking at a session of the Federation Council upper house of parliament, Lavrov said that 'the attempts to impose blatant pressure upon the Ukrainian government despite the decisions made in Moscow yesterday surprise us.'
'Kyiv is being flatly urged to make a 'free choice in favor of Europe' -- this very phrase is self-contradictory,' Lavrov added.
'At the same time, a sovereign nation is being deprived of its right to deal with the situation on its own terms and function in accordance with its legitimate national interests.'
Lavrov said the agreements signed in Moscow were 'mutually beneficial.' He added that the deals will 'restore and intensify' industrial and production ties between Russia and Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 17 offered to buy $15 billion-worth of Ukrainian bonds through a Russian emergency fund, and promised to cut the price of Russian natural gas by one-third.
On December 18, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov called the deal 'historic' and said it would give Ukraine economic and financial stability.
Azarov said in Kyiv that without the package, Ukraine faced 'bankruptcy and social collapse.'
After 3 1/2 years of Ukraine buying gas under the previous contract, which day by day was draining the blood out of our economy, the Ukrainian president has managed to put an end to the betrayal of our national interests, for which the same political forces that continue stoking instability in the country today are responsible,' Azarov said.
Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Eduard Stavytskyy said on December 18 that Ukraine will save some $7 billion every year because of Russia's new price for gas for Ukraine of $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters, down from the current price of over $400 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Stavytskyy said Ukraine will need to import between 30 billion and 33 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia in 2014.
The new price takes effect in January, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boyko said.
Yanukovych's decision reignited demands for his resignation by opponents at home already angered by his refusal to sign the EU deal last month. Opposition leaders have called for mass rallies over the holiday season in Kyiv.
In Ukraine, protesters are vowing to continue demonstrating, with tens of thousands of protesters gathering in Kyiv after Yanukovych accepted Putin's offer on December 17.
Opposition leaders have called for mass rallies over the holiday season on Independence Square in Kyiv, occupied for weeks by protesters.
Vitali Klitschko, an opposition leader and former heavyweight boxing champion, accused Yanukovych of surrendering Ukraine's independence.
The United States warned Kyiv the deal would not satisfy the protesters and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ties with Russia should not prevent Ukraine from looking West.
U.S. Lawmaker Decries Russian 'Intimidation'
Meanwhile, a U.S. lawmaker has reiterated the idea that Washington should consider targeted sanctions to punish Ukrainian officials who are seen to be behind violence directed at pro-EU protesters in the country.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it was important such officials understand that 'they cannot hide.'
He called police violence against demonstrators earlier this month in Kyiv 'absolutely disgraceful.'
Engel said he believed the aspirations of the Ukrainian people are to integrate with the EU.
On December 16, he introduced a bipartisan resolution supporting the right of Ukrainians 'to choose their own future free of intimidation and fear.'
Engel expressed concern to RFE/RL about what he called Russia's 'intimidation' of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as they seek closer ties with the West.
With reporting by Reuters and AP
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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