Baku-APA. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday called on Ukraine to “listen to the voices of its people” amid mass protests in the former Soviet republic over its government’s sudden rejection of a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.
“Clearly, there is a very powerful evidence of people who would like to be associated with Europe and who had high hopes for their aspirations to be fulfilled through that association,” Kerry told a news conference in Brussels following a meeting of foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych sparked a wave of protests when he unexpectedly put the brakes on a trade deal with the EU last month, saying the country’s economy would suffer and pledging instead to focus on strengthening ties with Moscow.
Russia had repeatedly warned Ukraine against signing the EU deal and had threatened stricter customs procedures if it went ahead with the agreements.
Kerry said Tuesday that the United States stands “with the vast majority of the Ukrainians” who see their future with Europe.
“We urge the Ukrainian government to listen to the voices of its people who want to live in freedom and in opportunity and prosperity,” Kerry said, calling on all sides in the standoff to “conduct themselves peacefully.”
“Violence has no place in a modern European state,” he said.
His comments followed a statement earlier in the day by NATO foreign ministerscondemning “the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrations” and urging Ukraine “to fully abide by its international commitments and to uphold the freedom of expression and assembly.”
Kerry did not mention Russia during Tuesday’s news conference, though he appeared to criticize pressure from Moscow over the prospects of Ukraine’s deeper integration with Europe.
“Europe and Europe’s friends all decline to engage in a rather overt, and we think, inappropriate bidding war with respect to the choice that might or might not be made,” Kerry said. “ … Mr. Yanukovych has obviously made a personal decision, and the people don’t agree with that decision.”
Tens of thousands of pro-Western demonstrators have taken to the streets in Kiev and other cities around Ukraine since Yanukovych’s government announced on November 21 that it would not sign the planned trade deal with the EU.
Hundreds of police and protesters have been injured in clashes during the demonstrations so far since violence broke out over the weekend, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Yanukovych reached back out to the EU on Monday in an apparent attempt to placate protesters. The two sides agreed to resume talks, though the EU said the terms of the deal could not be renegotiated.