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Ukraine not an East-West battle: Britain's Hague

AFP , Sunday 26 Jan 2014
Hague
British Foreign Secretary William Hague (Photo: Reuters)
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The unrest in Ukraine should not be seen as a battle between the East and the West, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Sunday.

Calling for a change in the narrative Hague said free trade between Ukraine and the European Union would benefit Russia too, as he urged restraint from government forces in the face of pro-EU protests.

The protests first erupted when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a key deal with the EU in November, opting for closer ties with former master Russia instead.

They have since snowballed into wider anti-government unrest, and clashes between demonstrators and police in the capital Kiev have left at least three people dead.

"We're very worried about the situation in Ukraine," Hague told BBC television.

"I don't think it need be seen as an East-West struggle.

"If Ukraine entered into the agreements with the EU that we've put forward, to have free trade with the European Union, that would benefit the people of Ukraine; it would also benefit the people of Russia.

"It would benefit that entire region so we have to change the narrative about this."

He said he spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart on Friday "to urge restraint in the face of violence and that repressive laws about freedom of expression and civil society should be changed, should be repealed".

He encouraged the Ukrainian government and the opposition to seek a consensus but said it was not for foreign countries to say what form that should take.

"What we want to see is a stable, democratic Ukraine working well with its neighbours, part of an increasingly economically prosperous region," he said.

"If anything is to be retrieved from this, it's important that restrictive and repressive laws are now changed... and that the talks between government and opposition continue to some agreement."

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