Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, has criticised Russia for its role in the public uprising that has swept Ukraine since its government chose to embrace a trade deal with Russia in mid-December.
The former Danish prime minister told French newspaper Le Figaro that pressure from Russia was the reason why the Ukrainians decided against signing a trade and association agreement with the EU, catalysing the volatile situation.
“An association agreement with Ukraine would have been an important strengthening of Euro-Atlantic security,” Rasmussen told Le Figaro. “I am sad that it could not be completed, but the reason is obvious. It’s due to the pressure that Russia is applying on Kiev.”
Fogh denounces violence
Ukraine has been mired in violent mass demonstrations since its president, Viktor Yanukovych, passed repressive laws and turned his back on EU negotiations to instead sign with Russia, a move that, according to its former president Leonid Kravchuk, has pushed Ukraine to the brink of civil war.
After intense protests and unrest, the Ukranian parliament repealed the restrictions on public demonstrations earlier this week.
Rasmussen denounced the political violence against demonstrators that has resulted in left several deaths, and urged the Ukrainian leaders to stand firm on their nation’s independence and strengthen bonds to NATO and the EU. Meanwhile, hopes that the relationship between NATO and Russian can be improved.
“In some areas, the co-operation between NATO and Russia has gotten better,” Rasmussen said. “But we disagree and have real conflicts of interest. It is obvious that Russia has a hostile view on NATO alliance’s moving east.”
Russia: Outsiders stop meddling
That was illustrated when Catherine Ashton, the vice president of the European Commission, visited Kiev on Wednesday to meet with president Yanukovych, a move that the Kremlin did not approve of.
"The more intermediaries there are, the more problems there are," Russian president Vladimir Putin said, according to The Guardian newspaper. "I am not sure Ukraine needs intermediaries."
He pointedly noted that European leaders would complain if Russia sent envoys to mediate in the Greek crisis of the past four years.
But Rasmussen hopes that things will improve and he met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergej Lazarov, this week in a bid to expand co-operation in certain areas, including counter-narcotics, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism.