The battle for Ukraine moved to Germany as Russian and Western leaders clashed over the crisis in the post-Soviet state at a weekend security conference in Munich.
Western speakers at the conference on Saturday voiced strong support for anti-government protests that have been rattling Ukraine since November, when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a trade and association pact with the European Union.
“The offer is still there and we know time is on our side. The future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union,” E.U. President
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asserted the West’s support for Ukraine’s fight for its “European future.” “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine,” Mr. Kerry said in Munich. “The United States and E.U. stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight.”
“They do not want their future to be allied with one country alone and they do not want to be coerced,” he added in a swipe at Mo
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov returned the jibe questioning Mr. Kerry’s ability to add.
At a meeting with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara later on Saturday, Mr. Lavrov described as “cheap propaganda” Mr. Kerry’s call on Ukraine to choose whether it wants to be “with the whole world or just with one country.”
“I’m going to ask [Kerry] what math grades he had at school,” Mr. Lavrov said.
In his speech at the conference the Russian Foreign Minister said it is the West that is foisting the European choice on Ukraine and pouring fuel into the crisis. Ukrainian opposition leaders were given red carpet welcome in Munich. Apart from addressing the conference they had meetings with Mr. Kerry, E.U. foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and other Western leaders.