Ukraine, caught in a tug-of-war for influence between Moscow
and Brussels, has been rocked by protests since it walked away
from the EU association deal two months ago. On Tuesday, Prime
Minister Mykola Azarov resigned and deputies rolled back
anti-protest laws to try to defuse the crisis.
"An association pact with Ukraine would have been a major boost
to Euro-Atlantic security, I truly regret that it could not be
done," Rasmussen told le Figaro daily. "The reason is
well-known: pressure that Russia exerts on Kiev."
Rasmussen also condemned police violence against the protesters
and pressed Ukraine's leaders to assert their independence,
urging closer ties with his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
and the European Union.
Noting that cooperation between NATO and Russia had improved in
some areas, he criticized Russia's role in eastern Europe.
"We have real differences and real issues," he said. "It's
obvious that Russia's attitude is clearly hostile to the (NATO)
alliance opening to the east."
(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; editing by Elizabeth Piper)
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