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20 February 201419:02

Answer by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, to the question from the mass media about the situation in Ukraine, during the press conference summarising the results of the negotiations with the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, Baghdad, 20 February 2014

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Question: How would you comment on the introduction of sanctions against Ukrainian officials by the United States, and the EU's request to hold early presidential elections in Ukraine? Doesn't it seem to you that an information war is in progress, and the mass media constantly throw out messages about Russia's involvement inUkrainian events?

Sergey Lavrov:Regards the accusations against Russia,there is a well-known proverb which explains just whom an uneasy conscience betrays. We are most deeply concerned about the events in Ukraine and, in particular, about the way this topic is commented on and affected by the capitals of western countries. Mass media present information in an extremely perverse way, drumming easy formulae into people's heads, such as the West appeals to the Government to leave Maidan alone. At the same time they prefer to avoid talking about what Maidan actually is. They provide no comments or explanations to their audience about car arsons, the throwing of Molotov cocktails at policemen, murders in the premises of the Party of Regions occupied by extremists. They keep silent about cases of violence against the governors in different Ukrainian regions, and facts related to "successful" attempts to get hold of stockpiles of weapons. They appeal to the government (and only the government) to stop the violence against "evidently peaceful demonstrators".

The Government and the Ukrainian President have shown their good will many times, they proposed a compromise, agreed, in particular, about the release of those who were arrested at Maidan in exchange for the liberation of government buildings. The Government has fulfilled its part of the agreement, while the opposition has disrupted it. On-the-spot reports by western mass media hardly mention organisations like the Right Sector, members of which stated clearly that they would not cooperate with the Government or the opposition and would act as they want. And they use radical and extremist methods, including the regular use of force.

The opposition cannot or does not want to edge away from extremists, while our western partners from Europe and the United States shift all the blame on to the Ukrainian authorities and do not appropriately qualify the actions of the extremists. We are worried about this situation, because it provides proof of double standards. Instead they are threatening sanctions (the United States have already introduced them against some representatives of the Ukrainian authorities) thus creating additional stimuli for the opposition to remain stubborn, and indirectly (or even directly) stimulating the militants to continue their outrages. The European Union is also going to discuss the introduction of sanctions against the Ukrainian authorities, doing this in parallel to sending another "uninvited" mission to Kiev. How can you expect your services to be in demand, if the threat of sanctions makes this operation look like blackmail?

We are surprised at the words we are hearing today from Washington. In particular, an anonymous source states that Washington is not able to contact the Ukrainian security officials. Another disappointment of US representatives is that they allegedly do not understand Russia's position and do not know what Russia is talking about with the Ukrainian representatives. Our position is absolutely clear. We announce it in public and we say nothing contrary to it, to our Ukrainian colleagues. We think that the Ukrainians should sort everything out themselves, according to constitutional norms, without obtrusive propositions to accept one or another mission, which most frequently come without being invited. Our position is that all the external players, and the Ukrainian opposition should decisively and urgently edge away from extremists, other radicals and anti-Semites. This should be done without ambiguities and supported by evident action.

Russia has nothing to hide. But we would probably like to know more about the everyday activities of western countries in Ukraine, including the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton, whom I respect. You all recall her visit to Kiev at the end of January and her meeting with journalists, where representatives of the Russian mass media, who applied, were allowed to participate.

Another important thing: it is time to stop using Ukraine as token money in geopolitical games, to express different appeals to Ukrainian leaders formulated on a "with us or against us" basis. You will have certainly heard numerous requests from western European countries to provide the Ukrainian people with freedom of choice, adding that this choice should be in favour of the European Union. The goal to impose such a choice on Ukrainian leaders is evident from theinitiatives and requests to hold early parliamentary and presidential elections and to form a coalition government. Everybody is attempting to decide for Ukraine. There have been statements from Washington today that all the changes must lead to making Ukraine integrate into the world community. This seems strange, because Ukraine is a rightful member of the UN (it was even one of its founders), as well as a participant of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. What other full integration into the world community may be imposed upon this country? Integration in the European Union or NATO? If this is the true world community according to our western partners, then we cannot agree with this.

We are against dividing lines and never support the promotion of personal interests to the detriment of our partners' interests. We hope the Ukrainian authorities and the opposition will agree on ways of overcoming their crisis according to their constitution and law, and combine their efforts against the extremists, who are attempting to provoke a civil war.

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