KIEV, Ukraine – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a speech to the upper house of parliament in Moscow, 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, the 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 said..
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 Tuesday 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.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov called the deal “historic” and said it would give Ukraine economic and financial stability.
Azarov said in Kiev that without the package, Ukraine faced “bankruptcy and social “What would have awaited Ukraine (without the deal)? The answer is clear – bankruptcy and social collapse.”
Azarov referred to a deal signed on Tuesday which included a $15-billion loan from Moscow and an agreement to lower the price of gas supplies by roughly one-third to Ukraine.
The prime minister called the bailout “historic” and insisted that an economic disaster would have been the “New Year’s present for the people of Ukraine,” had President Viktor Yanukovych not signed the deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The premier’s message appeared only to fuel protests on Kyiv’s Independence Square where thousands of people have converged to denounce the government’s refusal to enter into an agreement with the European Union instead.