UNITED NATIONS —
Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador says his countrymen “broadly” support EU membership, but they also want good neighborly relations with Russia.
Yuriy Sergeyev has been Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador since 2007. The Armenian-born son of a Russian father and Ukrainian mother said Monday he publicly parted ways with the government of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych on December 1, 2013, a day after a group of Kyiv medical students were beaten by police during peaceful street protests.
He now refers to his former bosses as ‘crooks,’ and he dismissed accusations of a coup. He said it is understandable that Yanukovych has been replaced and early elections called for May 25.
“He left his party, he left his partners, he disappeared secretly from the city; he destroyed himself. He disappeared and left his duties. He did that. That is why it is absolutely understandable what the parliament did, calling for the early elections," said Sergeyev.
Key dates about Ukraine's events
Nov. 21: Ukraine suspends plans to sign EU association agreement
Nov. 30: Riot police crack down on anti-government protesters in Kyiv
Dec. 17: Russia offers $15 billion in loans and slashes gas prices
Jan. 16: Ukraine parliament passes anti-protest law
Jan. 22: Protests spread, two protesters shot and killed in Kyiv clashes
Jan. 29: Parliament approves law offering amnesty to detained protesters if demonstrators abandon occupied buildings
Feb. 16: Protesters leave occupied government buildings after 2 months
Feb. 18: Police storm Kyiv protest camp, 18 protesters and police are killed
Feb. 20: Battles erupt, despite a truce announced a day earlier. At least 39 people are killed
Feb. 21: President Yanukovych announces early elections after talks brokered by EU diplomats
Feb. 22: Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is freed
Feb. 23: Oleksandr Turchynov named interim leader, the whereabouts of Viktor Yanukovych are unclear
Feb. 24: Ukraine issues arrest warrant for ousted President Yanukovych
Ukraine is split between those who want the country to move closer to Europe and those who want stronger ties with Russia. Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in November, setting off protests that led to him being kicked out of office.
Sergeyev said EU accession and a proposed loan package from the IMF have broad support among Ukrainians, and he says closer ties to Europe are in the country’s interest.
“We need association to help us reform ourselves, to modernize ourselves. To use EU assistance to assist us to change the economic, financial, social situation, which is not good now," he said.
As for Russia, he said the Ukrainian people want respect and mutually beneficial relations from their former Soviet ruler.
Moscow has reacted strongly to Yanukovych’s ouster, referring to the protesters as “riotous militants,” and questioning the legitimacy of Ukraine's new authorities.
Also Monday, the chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said at the U.N. Security Council that he is proposing establishing an international contact group on Ukraine to help support it through its transition. Didier Burkhalter told the Council that the violence in Ukraine is a “sobering reminder that security in Europe cannot be taken for granted.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for inclusive political talks and an end to the violence that has killed 100 anti-government protesters in the past two weeks. He also has dispatched a senior advisor to Kyiv to talk to the parties.