MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) – The ongoing protests in Ukraine divided world leaders attending the 50th annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that demonstrators in the country “are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations.”
“Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine.”
NATO and EU officials echoed those comments in words of support for the demonstrators.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, urged world leaders to work with the country’s leaders to defuse the situation.
“We need fewer slogans right now and more care about the results of efforts being undertaken by the Ukrainian leadership to return the country to a peaceful course.”
Demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital Kiev began in November following the announcement that the country would drop its bid to seek an association agreement with the EU.
On Saturday, Leonid Kozhara, Ukraine’s foreign minister, voiced concerns that the country was becoming caught between competing interests.
“We do not want to be pawns in a geopolitical game,” he said, adding “we do not want anyone to interfere with our strategic partnership with Russia, but we are also drawn towards the European Union.”
Russian officials have alleged that the demonstrations are a result of Western meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
The protests turned violent last month after Ukraine’s parliament hastily passed a set of laws curtailing the right to public assembly.
On Friday, President Viktor Yanukovych signed a bill into law that reversed the earlier legislation and opened the door for amnesty for protestors.
Both Lavrov and Kerry stressed that Ukraine need not choose between Russian and European alliances.
“Their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced,” Kerry said in an apparent jab at Moscow.
Lavrov said that suggesting Ukraine must choose sides is “an idea from a bygone era.”