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. Russia will not interfere in Ukraine, Georgia: Lavrov
BERLIN (AFP) Jan 03, 2005
Russia will respect Ukraine's sovereignty after its contested presidential election and not interfere with Georgia's choice of allies, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview on Monday.

When asked by the daily Handeslblatt whether Ukraine or Georgia should be allowed to join the European Union or the NATO defence alliance, Lavrov said: "It's their choice."

"We respect the right of every state, including our neighbours, to choose their partners themselves and decide on which organisations they want to join," he said in a rare interview with a Western newspaper.

"If the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs is respected in Ukraine and Ukraine has the right to choose its own partners, then I don't see any danger of a new Cold War," he said.

Russia has been roundly criticised for supporting Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Kremlin prime minister initially credited with having won a controversial presidential election some six weeks ago.

On December 26, his Western-leaning rival, Viktor Yushchenko, won a rerun of the second round of that poll by more than 2.2 million votes, according to preliminary results.

However he has not been declared the official winner and Ukraine's parliament will not set a date to inaugurate him until after one is made.

Lavrov criticised Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot, whose country held the EU's rotating presidency during the last half of 2004, for saying "that Ukraine should look to align itself with the West," Lavrov claimed.

Georgia has long-term plans to join NATO and it is exceeding unlikely to begin talks on EU membership any time in the near future.

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