Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has once again warned the West against interfering in the political crisis in Ukraine.
Speaking on February 14 at a news conference with his visiting German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Lavrov said Ukraine's citizens should be allowed to resolve matters themselves.
"We believe Ukrainians themselves should find a way out of the political crisis," Lavrov said, adding, "We expect all other partners of Ukraine to follow the same principle."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych unexpectedly bailed out of a key trade and political deal with the European Union in November 2013, apparently under pressure from Moscow. The move sparked large pro-EU demonstrations and triggered an ongoing political crisis.
Lavrov said on February 14 that the European Union was seeking to create a "sphere of influence" by pressuring Kyiv to sign the Association Agreement with the bloc at the expense of relations with Moscow.
"I fully agree with Frank-Walter that there should be no spheres of influence. But dragging Ukraine to one side, telling it that it needs to choose 'either or' -- either with the EU or with Russia -- [the European Union] is, in fact, trying to create such a sphere of influence," Lavrov said.
"That is obvious and no nice words can change that."
'Some Sort Of Rivalry'
Lavrov also criticized diplomatic efforts by the EU to mediate in the political dispute between Yanukovych's pro-Russian government and the pro-Western opposition led by Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko.
"It seems it is not correct and polite to speak about freedom of choice and at the same time send envoys every day, without invitation, to spend time in Kyiv trying to convince the Ukrainian leadership in the same choice that is pushed by the European Union itself and the United States as well," he said.
The EU's enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fuele, was back in Kyiv this week, where on February 13 he called on the two sides to agree on constitutional reform that would trim presidential powers and bolster the authority of parliament. He also warned the authorities against harassing protesters and activists.
Steinmeier, for his part, admitted that there had been "some sort of rivalry" between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
But he said that it would be counterproductive for the development of EU-Russia relations to see Ukraine as an element in "a geopolitical chess game" and called for a negotiated political solution to the crisis.
The talks came a day after Lavrov wrote in "Kommersant" that the relationship between Russia and the EU "has reached a kind of moment of truth" over Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Merkel planned to meet Klitschko and Yatsenyuk in Berlin on February 17 for talks on the crisis.
With reporting by Reuters, ITAR-TASS, and dpa