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Ukraine

Nuland Denies U.S. Training Ukraine Militants, Suggests Aid Possible

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on February 7
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on February 7

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A senior U.S. diplomat has denied Russian claims that Ukrainian antigovernment militants are trained at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also said Washington and the international community are ready to provide more aid to Ukraine if leaders move quickly to implement democratic reforms and install what she called a "national technical government" to end the ongoing confrontation between authorities and antigovernment protesters.

"Nobody is going to give economic support from the United States or from the IMF [International Monetary Fund] or from Europe to an unreformed Ukraine," Nuland said.

Nuland was speaking in Kyiv on February 7, one day after she became embroiled in controversy after the leak of a bugged conversation in which she used a vulgarity to dismiss European Union mediation efforts in Ukraine.

The State Department says Nuland has apologized to the EU.

However, Germany, a leading U.S. ally and an EU power, criticized Nuland’s comments as "totally unacceptable."

A spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Merkel strongly backs the job being done on the Ukrainian crisis by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Neither Nuland nor the U.S. State Department has disputed the contents of the recording of the telephone call between Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

"I am obviously not going to comment on private diplomatic conversations, other than to say it was pretty impressive tradecraft. The audio was extremely clear," Nuland said on February 7.

Earlier, the U.S. State Department suggested that Russia was likely responsible for the disclosure of the conversation.

The controversy has occurred amid a heated competition between Russia, on one side, and the United States and EU, on the other, to influence events in Ukraine.

Russian officials have suggested the recording, in which the American diplomats discuss the capabilities of Ukrainian opposition leaders, shows that Washington is deeply involved in efforts to take over the country.

Mass protests by Ukrainians erupted more than two months ago after President Viktor Yanukovych declined to sign trade and political accords with the EU and instead moved to strengthen Ukraine’s economic and political ties to Russia, including agreeing to a $15 billion loan from Moscow.

Nuland, the State Department’s most senior official for Europe, met in Kyiv with Ukrainian leaders on February 6, including Yanukovych and opposition leaders.

She denounced as “pure fantasy” an allegation by a Russian official that the United States is arming and training Ukrainian antigovernment militants.

Nuland also said she did not believe the leaked recording would ruin relations between the United States and opposition leaders.

She said the international community, including the United States, is ready to boost financial support for Ukraine if the country’s leaders move away from confrontation, embrace democratic reforms, and install a unity technical government to clear the way for new elections.

Speaking about Washington’s relations with Russia, Nuland said the United States has “broad and complex” relations with Russia on issues ranging from Ukraine to Syria, arms control, and the Iranian nuclear program.

"We have been in conversation with Russia with regard to the situation in Ukraine," Nuland said. "Our message has been that we all -- Ukrainians, Russians, Americans, all of Ukraine's neighbors -- have an interest in a stable, peaceful, democratic Ukraine. That's what the Untied States is working to support and we are asking what Russia is working to support."

Yanukovych was due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 7 on the sidelines of the Olympic Games as they kicked off in Sochi, Russia.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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