Ukraine unrest: Rival politicians face off at summit

EU and US clash with Russia in Munich.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko have clashed face to face at a security summit in Munich, the BBC informs. The two men appeared in a discussion, during which Mr Klitschko showed Mr Kozhara images of injuries he said were inflicted by the police on protesters.
Mr Kozhara suggested some of the opposition were right-wing extremists. Ukraine has been in turmoil since November, when it scrapped an EU accord in favour of a Russian bailout. “The Ukrainian people have shown and have proven that they are able to to defend their decision on Europe despite repressive measures being taken,” Mr Klitschko said, the Associated Press news agency reports. He added that the opposition felt stronger because of the support from western friends of Ukraine. After Mr Klitschko showed Mr Kozhara the images he said were of the effects of police brutality, Mr Kozhara replied by accusing some of the protesters of belonging to far-right groups.
“Are you with the extremist groups who wear some logos and emblems that looks like Nazi style emblems on them?” he asked Mr Klitschko. “Are you with the extremists who are attacking the police with Molotov cocktails?” he added. On the issue of whether Ukraine should orient itself more towards the EU or Russia, Mr Kozhara also pointed out that “there are eight million ethnic Russians living in the country”.
“Do you think they are happy when European politicians say: ‘You must make a strategic choice, you must take Ukraine away from Russia and put it somewhere else’?”
The issue of Ukraine protester Dmytro Bulatov was also raised at the conference. He went missing for eight days and said he had been kidnapped and tortured by captors who spoke with Russian accents. He is now in hospital in Kiev under guard from both police and anti-government demonstrators.
Angry exchanges
Ukraine’s future has sparked angry exchanges at a summit in Munich. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the “future of Ukraine belongs with the EU” while US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US backed Ukraine’s “fight for democracy”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western countries of double standards over violent protests. Ukraine has been in turmoil since November, when it scrapped an EU accord in favour of a Russian bailout. The security conference is an annual event held to discuss military and political affairs.
Mr Van Rompuy’s opening speech referred to the EU’s offer of close association with Ukraine. “The offer is still there and we know time is on our side. The future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union,” he said.
Mr Kerry launched a broad attack on “a disturbing trend in too many parts of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans”.
He said: “The aspirations of citizens are once again being trampled beneath corrupt, oligarchic interests – interests that use money to stifle political opposition and dissent, to buy politicians and media outlets, and to weaken judicial independence.” Mr Kerry added: “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine. The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight.” He said the “vast majority of Ukrainians want to live freely in a safe and prosperous country – they are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realise their aspirations”.
In an apparent swipe at Moscow, he added that “their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced”.
Mr Lavrov said that a “choice is being imposed [on Ukraine] and Russia is not going to be engaged in this”. He asked: “What does incitement of violent street protests have to do with the promotion of democracy? Why do we not hear condemnation of those who seize government buildings and attack police and use racist, anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans?”
Mr Lavrov said: “Why are many prominent European politicians actually encouraging such actions, although back home they are quick to severely punish any violations of the law?”
Interfax also quoted Mr Lavrov as saying: “When John Kerry… says that Ukraine should choose who it is with – with the whole world or with one country, Kerry – with his experience, good sense – is the last person I would expect such propaganda from.”
On Saturday, Mr Kerry met Ukraine opposition leaders including Arseniy Yatsenyuk and boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko. He also met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara.
The White House has confirmed it is discussing possible sanctions against Ukraine with the US Congress.

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