Russia blasted the West for pushing Ukraine to break up with Russia and creating new fault lines in Europe.

Following talks with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West was building “spheres of influence” and imposing an “either-or” choice on Ukraine.

“I fully agree with Frank-Walter that there should be no spheres of influence. But dragging Ukraine to one side, telling it that it needs to choose ‘either or,’ with the European Union or with Russia, [the West] is in fact trying to create such a sphere of influence,” Mr. Lavrov said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart. “That is obvious and no nice words can change that.”

The Russian Minister warned the West against interfering in the Ukrainian crisis.

“I think it is not correct and polite to speak about freedom of choice and keep sending emissaries to Kiev without invitation on a daily basis in order to persuade the Ukrainian leadership to make the choice that is being pushed by the EU and the United States,” he said.

“We believe Ukrainians themselves should find a way out of the political crisis …We expect all other partners of Ukraine to follow the same principle,” Mr. Lavrov said.

Competition

Mr. Steinmeier admitted that there had been “some sort of competition” between Russia and the West over Ukraine that “was not helpful.” He said it would be counterproductive for EU-Russia ties to see Ukraine as an element in “a geopolitical chess game.”

‘Moment of truth’

Ahead of his talks with the German Foreign Minister, Mr. Lavrov said that relations between Russia and the EU had reached “moment of truth” over Ukraine.

“Europe’s history convincingly proves that peace and stability on the continent prevailed when Russia was an active player in European affairs, whereas attempts to isolate our country inevitably set in motion processes that led to the catastrophes of the world wars,” Mr. Lavrov wrote in an article for the Kommersant daily on Thursday.