Thursday, August 28, 2014


Ukraine

Yanukovych In Sochi To Meet Putin; U.S. Apologizes To EU Over Leaked Call

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) gestures to guide Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych toward a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission at the Kremlin in Moscow in December.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) gestures to guide Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych toward a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission at the Kremlin in Moscow in December.

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By RFE/RL
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is in Sochi, where he is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics.

They last met on January 8 for talks on Ukraine’s crisis, sparked by Yanukovych's refusal to sign a pact on closer ties with the European Union. Yanukovych’s government then accepted an economic bailout from Moscow, which had opposed tighter links between Ukraine and the EU.

Yanukovych left Kyiv on February 6 after telling visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland that he favors constitutional reforms, one of the key demands of Ukraine's pro-EU demonstrators. But Yanukovych said constitutional amendments must be made legally.

He also told Nuland he backs moves to speed up the process of releasing activists detained in the civil unrest. Yanukovych has supported a law that offers amnesty for detainees, but on condition that occupied public buildings are cleared of protesters.

Meanwhile, Nuland has refused to comment about an apparently bugged telephone conversation in which she appears to discuss Ukrainian opposition leaders, telling reporters in Kyiv on February 7 that she will not comment "on a private diplomatic conversation."

She has already apologized to European Union officials about the call with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, in which she appears to discuss U.S. moves in the crisis and the political viability of Ukrainian opposition leaders.

The leaked phone call appears to have been made following Yanukovych’s January 25 offer to opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk to be prime minister and Vitali Klitschko to be deputy prime minister. A voice believed to be Nuland's says she doesn't think it is a good idea for Klitschko to be in any new government.

"I think 'Yats' is the guy who's got the economic experience, the governing experience," the speaker says. "You know, what he needs is 'Klitsch' and [other opposition leader Oleh] Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week. You know, I just think 'Klitsch' going in, he's going to be at that level, working for Yatsenyuk. It's just not going to work."

At one point, a voice appearing to be Nuland's uses a strong expletive to describe frustrations about EU diplomatic efforts in Kyiv.

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she would not comment on leaked alleged telephone conversations.

U.S. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki did not deny that it is Nuland and Pyatt on the four-minute recording, telling reporters in Washington that she is allowing for the fact that it is authentic.

"It is no secret that Ambassador Pyatt and Assistant Secretary Nuland have been working with the government of Ukraine, with the opposition, with business and civil society leaders to support their efforts," Psaki said. "And it shouldn't be a surprise that at any point there have been discussions about recent events, offers, and what is happening on the ground."

Psaki said she did not know who posted the recording but criticized Moscow for promoting it on social media, calling it "a new low in Russian tradecraft."

Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to Putin, accused Washington on February 6 of a "clear breach" of a 1994 treaty giving the United States and Russia roles as co-guarantors of security in Ukraine.

"The stunts the Americans are pulling today by crudely interfering in Ukraine's domestic affairs in a unilateral manner are an obvious violation" of the agreement, he said.

In an interview with the Ukrainian edition of Russia's "Kommersant," he also accused Washington of spending $20 million a week on financing and arming the Ukrainian opposition and "rebels" and hinted of Russia's intervention in the crisis.

When conflicts arise, he said, the guarantors "are obliged to intervene."

A spokeswoman said German Chancellor Angela Merkel considers Nuland's comments "totally unacceptable." Christiane Wirtz added that Merkel believes EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is "doing an outstanding job" on the Ukraine crisis.

Both EU power Germany and the United States have been among the leading international supporters of Ukraine's opposition.

A second recording, purporting to be a conversation between two EU officials, was posted the same day from the same YouTube account. In it, a voice believed to be Helga Schmid, deputy to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, is heard complaining about U.S. criticism that the Europeans are "too soft" on Ukraine.

A spokeswoman for Ashton declined comment.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service

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