Radio Free Europe on February 1, 2014, reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told attendees at a major international security forum that the Ukrainian people are engaged in a fight for democracy. Excerpts below:
“Nowhere is the fight for a democratic European future more important today than in Ukraine,” Kerry told the Munich Security Conference on February 1. “While there are unsavory elements in the streets in any chaotic situation, the vast majority of Ukrainians want to live freely in a safe and a prosperous country and they are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations and they have decided that that means their futures do not have to lie with one country alone and certainly not coerced.”
He said the United States and the EU stand with the people of Ukraine in their right to make their own decisions.
Kerry is expected to meet with Ukrainian opposition leaders on the sidelines of the conference, a development seen as a major boost to the protest movement.
Those talks are expected to include opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko, who himself was to address the conference later on February 1.
“We expect support for Ukraine, support for a democratically peaceful movement because everyone wants to see Ukraine asa modern European country, which is our main goal,” Klitschko said on arrival. “But so many people right now, especially in the government of Ukraine,don’t see Ukraine as a European country.”
Yatsenyuk planned to meet with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is in attendance.
Ukraine’s army on January 31 urged President Viktor Yanukovych to take “urgent steps” to stabilize the country and bring an end to more than two months of political upheaval.
Yanukovych signed a law offering a conditional amnesty to jailed protesters. He also signed legislation that repeals controversial antiprotest laws passed earlier in January.
The opposition has rejected the amnesty conditions and is continuing to call for the president’s resignation, along with early national elections and constitutional reforms.
Meanwhile, NATO’s chief and Russia’s foreign minister have sparred over Ukraine as they also addressed the conference.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the annual global gathering of hundreds of top leaders, diplomats and defense officials that “Ukraine must have the freedom to choose its own path without external pressure.”
EU President Herman Van Rompuy reiterated in Munich that the association deal was still available to Ukraine. He told the conference, “We know time is on our side. The future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union.”
The Munich Security Conference, which ends on February 2, is addressing international issues including crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, and U.S. online surveillance, among other topics.