MOSCOW, February 25 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s top diplomat said Tuesday that Moscow will not interfere with affairs in Ukraine as the former Soviet nation scrambles to recover from the outcome of a street-based uprising that culminated in the overthrow of the president.
The Kremlin has reacted with barely disguised anger to the ascent to power by political forces that had until last week occupied the ranks of the opposition, but it has been at pains to convey a non-interventionist stance over developments in Ukraine.
“We have confirmed our principled position to not interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs and expect all [foreign powers] to follow a similar logic,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Lavrov said it would be “dangerous and counterproductive” to give Ukraine an ultimatum of “either you’re with us or against us.”
Political unrest erupted in Ukraine in November when the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych indefinitely postponed the signing of free trade and association deals with the European Union to instead focus on strengthening ties with Russia.
European officials at the time accused Moscow of applying pressure on Kiev to back away from the EU trade deal, which the Kremlin has argued would serve to harm Russia’s own economy.
Police, Protesters Standoff in Kiev
The street protests culminated in deadly clashes between police and protesters in Kiev last week in which nearly 100 people were killed, prompting deputies to vote to impeach Yanukovych over the weekend.
Yanukovych is now being sought on charges of ordering mass murder. An early presidential election is scheduled for May 25.
Lavrov suggested that the election should be delayed until constitutional reforms are carried out in September, as had been agreed between Yanukovych and the opposition last week in a deal that preceded the president’s flight and impeachment.
“The agreement from February 21 envisions that this reform should be carried out through to September, and that only after that – it is specifically underlined – and until the end of the year should the presidential election take place,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov, who earlier Tuesday attended a Security Council meeting with Russia’s president and defense minister, said Moscow would wait until a new government was formed in Ukraine before agreeing to render assistance.
“We want to understand who will be in Ukraine’s new government, which is literally being formed at this time, and what agenda this new government will have, including for stabilizing the economy,” he said.
Ukraine is on the brink of economic collapse following Yanukovych’s ouster on Saturday. Russia announced last year that it would grant Ukraine $15 billion in loans to help tide over the cash-strapped country’s debts, but it remains unclear to what extent those pledges will be kept.
On Monday, Ukraine’s interim finance minister said the country was seeking at least $35 billion in urgent aid from Western powers, including the EU and the United States.