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German FM Meets Ukraine Protesters

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, center, alongside Ukrainian opposition leaders Vitaliy Klitschko, left, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Germany’s foreign minister has met with Ukrainian pro-European protesters in Kyiv’s Independence Square.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited the demonstrators alongside opposition leader and boxing champion Vitaliy Klitschko, and opposition figure and former minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Westerwelle said the European Union’s door remains open to Ukraine, despite the government’s decision last month not to sign EU association and trade pacts but instead pursue closer ties to neighboring power Russia.

The government’s action has triggered the largest mass protests in Ukraine since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

"Europe is not indifferent to the fate of Ukraine," said Westerwelle, who traveled to Kyiv for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "We are promoting European values and the door to Europe remains open.”

In another development, the three former Ukrainian presidents have expressed support for the protesters.

"We express solidarity with the peaceful civic actions of hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainians," said a statement from Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Yushchenko.

U.S. Backing

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has also reiterated the backing of the United States.

Kerry, on a visit to Chisinau on December 4, praised Moldova for signing partnership deals with the EU.

In an apparent reference to Russian influence, Kerry said Ukrainians, like Moldovans, had a right to choose their own future.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, has urged outsiders not to interfere in Ukraine, calling the situation an internal Ukrainian issue.

With protesters continuing to mass in central Kyiv, Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko has ordered authorities not to use force against peaceful rallies.

He also said rally organizers are responsible for the safety of participants, and urged demonstrators not to react to provocations.

With the country mired in economic problems, a Ukrainian delegation visited Moscow on December 4 to seek aid.

President Viktor Yanukovych, meanwhile, continued his visit to China, where he was also seeking economic assistance.

The government needs billions of dollars for gas bills and debt repayments.

With reporting from AFP and Reuters
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