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Saakashvili, Filat Offer Support To Pro-EU Protesters

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (center) meets pro-European integration protesters on Independence square in Kyiv on December 7.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (center) meets pro-European integration protesters on Independence square in Kyiv on December 7.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and ex-Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat have spoken in Kyiv in support of the tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding closer ties to the European Union.

Saakashvili, who arrived in Kyiv on December 6, voiced his support to the demonstrators massed on Kyiv's Independence Square when he addressed them the following day.

"I am Ukrainian, I am Georgian, and I am a European," he said. "I knew that one day Ukraine would become an example of success, an example of an Eastern European nation integrated into the European family of free, democratic, prospering countries. Today I see that I was right. Ukraine will be able to do this; we will do this together."

Saakashvili added that "nothing can prevent our common aspiration of freedom."

Georgia initialed an Association Agreement with the EU at its Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 28.

Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze told reporters that Saakashvili was free to go to Kyiv and make such remarks but that he is not acting as a representative of the Georgian government.

Also on December 7, Moldova's Filat told RFE/RL that the atmosphere in Ukraine is very tense but that it is a time for dialogue.

"What is important now, during this time period, is to respect the will of the Ukrainian citizens and their will is clearly expressed in favor of the pro-European values [of closer ties to the European Union]," he said. "For Moldova it is vital that Ukraine goes further in this European integration process so that together we can improve the lives of our citizens. That's why we were, we are, and we will be united and show solidarity with the process of the European integration of Ukraine."

Moldova, like Georgia, also initialed an association and free-trade agreement with the EU last month.

Protesters in Ukraine were further angered on on December 2 by the actions of President Viktor Yanukovych, who held talks with President Vladimir Putin after stopping off in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi while returning from a trip to China.

'Road Map' To Russia Agreement

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told reporters that the talks concerned the drafting of what he called a "big strategic-partnership agreement" aimed at eliminating differences on trade and economic policies.

"Our president made a stop in Sochi on his way from China, where a preplanned meeting took place," he said. "We are talking about a big strategic-partnership agreement with Russia that will be supplemented by a so-called road map, which will eliminate our differences with regard to trade and economic regimes."

Azarov said the Ukrainian and Russian sides also discussed questions surrounding Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the opposition accused Yanukovych of betraying national interests.

Arseny Yatsenyuk, the leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna faction, told crowds gathered on Independence Square Saturday that Yanukovych is "only interested in his own personal fate."

The mass pro-European demonstrations began last month after Yanukovych rejected signing EU trade and association accords, which had been negotiated for years, and instead pledged to pursue links with Russia.

Moscow wants Ukraine to join a Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union and scale back its cooperation with the EU.

The demonstrators are demanding the ouster of the government, new elections, and the punishment of police responsible for violence against demonstrators.

They face a court-ordered deadline to end their blockade of government facilities early next week.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and RFE/RL's Moldovan and Georgian services

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