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EU, Russia Clash Over Response To Ukraine Crisis

Russian President Putin (file photo) 25 November 2004 -- Leaders of the European Union and Russia, meeting in the Netherlands today, disagreed on how to respond to the political crisis in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine's Supreme Court should be used to resolve the contested presidential election and warned against outside interference.

"We don't think we have the right to interfere in any way in the election process and impose our opinion on the Ukrainian people," Putin said.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who holds the rotating EU Presidency, said observers found serious and unacceptable fraud taking place during the election, which election officials said was won by a pro-Russian candidate over a Western-leaning opposition leader.

"The elections did not meet international standards, and that is why the European Union is unable to accept its results and we have done this on the basis of OSCE findings," Balkenende said.

Balkenende said the EU and Russia need to "ensure that what is done reflects the will of the voters." But he also agreed with Putin's position that the dispute should be settled peacefully by Ukrainians.

At the summit, disagreements about security hindered progress on negotiations to reach a "strategic partnership" between the EU and Russia, although the leaders expressed confidence an agreement will be reached by next May.