Russian PM Weighs In Over Ukraine's EU Row

December 13, 2013 2:58 PM

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Dmitry Medvedev tells outsiders not to interfere as talks are held with opposition leaders including ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko.

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said Ukraine must overcome a "tectonic split" in the country that threatens the existence of the state.

Speaking at a meeting with his Belarussian counterpart, Mr Medvedev said the appearance of European politicians at protests in Kiev was "crude interference" in Ukraine's internal affairs.

His comments came as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych held talks with opposition leaders including former boxer Vitali Klitschko, who has been a visible presence at protests in recent weeks.

Before the meeting, Mr Yanukovych proposed an amnesty for all protesters facing criminal charges in the country's wave of massive anti-government demonstrations.

"There should be an amnesty, in order to give guarantees that the process of confrontation will stop," Yanukovych said.

"I am outraged by the radical actions on both sides ... from the side of provocateurs and from the side of the security forces, which have not always behaved properly."

The proposed amnesty could be a sizeable step toward resolving the conflict that has threatened the president's leadership.

The protests began on November 21 after he refused to sign a landmark deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Demonstrators are continuing their protests against the government's decision, setting up an extensive tent camp in Independence Square where they gather around the clock.

The row between government and opposition parties has seen clashes involving tens of thousands of demonstrators and riot police protecting the government.

Deputy PM Sergiy Arbuzov insists the government intends to sign the treaty with the EU, but he says are issues that still need to be worked out.

Opposition parties accuse the government of bowing to pressure from Russia's President Vladimir Putin who, they say, is against Ukraine getting close to the EU.

Experts had earlier said time was running out for Mr Yanukovych to make a decision on a future direction for his politically volatile nation, which is split between a Ukrainian-speaking, pro-EU west and a Russian-speaking, Moscow-leaning east.

His choices are to either sign a deal with the EU that would put his ex-Soviet nation on track to eventually joining the bloc, or join a Moscow-led Customs Union, which Russia sees as a future alternative to the EU.

Many people in eastern Ukraine, the country's rural heartland, are against the protesters in Kiev and want the country to have closer economic ties with Russia.

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