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Ukraine: Russia Warns Europe Over Crisis As Envoys Arrive In Kyiv

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo) The protest movement sparked by Ukraine's disputed presidential election entered its fifth day today, with opposition supporters blocking access to official buildings in central Kyiv and strikes reported in western regions. As the international community pressed ahead with efforts aimed at defusing the crisis, Russia again voiced concern over what it calls Europe's meddling in Ukrainian domestic affairs.

26 November 2004 -- Russia today called on the European Union not to interfere in Ukraine and let the country's people choose who they want for president.

Addressing journalists in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged European governments to "respect the choice of the Ukrainian people and let them decide by themselves how to settle their domestic disputes."

"Attempts made by certain states to have the situation go beyond Ukraine's legal framework are worrying -- all the more so when some European capitals say they will not recognize the [outcome of the] election. Their theory is that Ukraine should be with the West. But geographically, Ukraine is located both near the West and Russia. Generally speaking, these kinds of statements make one believe that someone would really like to see a new dividing line drawn across Europe," Lavrov said.
"People from all regions [are calling us] to ask where they should go, where they should gather. Those who claim that the 15 million votes [for Yanukovych] have been falsified are liars. Up until now only one side has been emotional. Today the other side is getting emotional, too."

Moscow, which supports the outgoing Ukrainian administration, says there is no reason to challenge official results that gave Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych victory in the 21 November runoff.

Russia and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan have recognized the outcome of the election and congratulated Yanukovych on his victory.

By contrast, the European Union and the European Parliament have joined their voices to that of the United States to demand that an investigation be launched into allegations of election fraud made by the Ukrainian opposition.

The Ukrainian crisis overshadowed yesterday's EU-Russia summit in the Dutch city of The Hague, with both sides remaining entrenched in their positions.

The EU today dispatched its foreign policy chief, Spanish diplomat Javier Solana, to the Ukrainian capital in a bid to mediate between the government and the opposition.

In remarks made upon his arrival in Kyiv, Solana said the EU was anxious to help Ukraine "recover its unity" after the election, which has split the country between predominantly pro-Yushchenko western regions and pro-Yanukovych eastern areas.

"[I am here] to try to meet all the leaders of the country and see if we can cooperate to find a solution which has to be negotiated and that will allow this important country to move on forward," Solana said.

Solana was due to hold talks with Kuchma and both rivals for the presidency before returning to Brussels later today.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski also arrived in Kyiv today upon Kuchma's request to help the sides find a negotiated solution to their dispute.

Expected to follow Solana and Kwasniewski in the Ukrainian capital were Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Jan Kubis, the secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Spurred by a Supreme Court ruling that barred the Central Election Commission from publishing its official results until the election fraud claims are reviewed, opposition supporters in Kyiv today blocked access to the presidential administration, the government headquarters, the parliament, and the central bank.

In the western city of Lviv, teachers were on strike as hundreds of students boycotted classes. Stoppages were also reported in Vynnitsya and the Transcarpathia region, near the Polish border.

Yushchenko's supporters have also announced plans to block Ukraine's main highways and called upon army and security officers to join the civil disobedience movement.

Meanwhile in Kyiv, Yanukovych's spokesman Serhiy Tyhypko told reporters that more and more people were declaring themselves for the official presidential winner.

"The authorities will do nothing. It is the people who will decide. Ukraine's southeast has already its president, it is Yanukovych. They have voted for him, they went to the polls and cast their ballots for him. Go and ask for yourselves. People from all regions [are calling us] to ask where they should go, where they should gather. Those who claim that the 15 million votes [for Yanukovych] have been falsified are liars. Up until now only one side has been emotional. Today the other side is getting emotional, too," Tyhypko said.

Tyhypko, however, confirmed Yanukovych's willingness to enter into talks with Yushchenko in order to defuse the crisis.

"We are ready to talk without any setting conditions, but the opposition should stop exerting pressure on us," he said.