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Diplomacy

Ukraine divides world powers at Munich Security Conference

At the Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed the solidarity of the US and EU with the people of Ukraine. His Russian counterpart has blasted the West for getting too involved.

Protesters tortured in Ukraine

Kerry's comments Saturday in Munich touched on the willingness of the United Sates and European Union to stand with the people of Ukraine in their fight "for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations."

This refers to protests that have swept Ukraine in the last two months after President Viktor Yanukovch opted out of a deal that would have brought closer ties with the EU, choosing instead to an agreement that strengthened bonds with Russia.

"Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine," Kerry said in Munich. "The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine."

Abuse and beatings

The protests have turned violent in the past week and four protesters have been reported killed. One prominent opposition activist, Dmytro Bulatov, resurfaced Thursday after being missing for a week to report he had been beaten and tortured by his captors. Similar reports of abuse and beatings have come from other activists as well.

On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Bulatov would be allowed to travel into the EU beginning on Sunday. He had received the news - which he called a sign of "progress" - from Ukraine Foreign Minister Leonid Koshara.

Bulatov's revelations drew condemnation from the international community, including the EU's foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton.

Earlier at the conference, EU President Herman van Rompuy said "the future of Ukraine lies in Europe."

Lavrov fires back

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has taken the West to task for its support of the opposition in Ukraine. He was also at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

"Why are many prominent EU politicians actually encouraging such actions although back home they are quick to severely punish any violations of the law?" Lavrov said. "What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?"

Protesters in Ukraine have occupied public buildings and been involved in clashes with police.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmsussen said in Munich that he was concerned that only a "cold cooperation" between Russia and NATO countries rather than a "constructive engagement."

"I think we should be more ambitious," he told the conference.

Allegations against opposition

On Friday, Ukraine's secret service announced it was opening an investigation into the opposition Fatherland party for "pre-planning" the protests that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet. The secret service said a search of computers belonging to Fatherland proved they had also provoked police into violence during the demonstrations.

Unconfirmed reports say the party considers the allegations to be a provocation.

Later on Saturday, Kerry is scheduled to meet with the Ukrainian opposition for talks. This comes as concerns grow that the Ukrainian army might become involved in the conflict.

mz/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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