A top aide to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin today called Ukraine’s election dispute a major test of Russia’s relations with the West and accused politicians in the United States and Europe of fomenting political change in former Soviet republics.
But Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin’s special representative for ties with the European Union, said he does not see a ”serious chill” in relations with Europe and that it is not in either side’s interest to alienate the other.
Russia has clashed with the West over Ukraine’s election, with the EU and the United States refusing to recognise the official result, which gave Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the victory.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly congratulated Yanukovych on his win.
Yastrzhembsky said said that given the importance of Ukraine and its special strategic position on the geopolitical map, the poll dispute was “a powerful test of the strength of relations between Russia and the West”.
He also repeated Russian accusations of Western and US meddling in the Ukraine - a country the size of France with 48 million people.
He added: “It’s impossible not to see the direct involvement of the American Congress, individual congressmen who are spending their days and nights in Kiev - foundations, non-government organisations, consultants, experts.
“It’s clear and obvious to everyone,” he said in a Russian TV interview.
The street protests against the official poll results in Ukraine and in favour of Western-leaning opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko bear “the same signature” as demonstrations that brought down Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.
He also likened the protests to Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s.
“We get the impression that they want to teach the citizens of the post-Soviet space that many very serious questions – political, constitutional, electoral – can be resolved with the help of the crowd, with the help of the street. And that’s very dangerous,” Yastrzhembsky said.
At an EU summit Thursday, Putin said that Ukraine’s vote needed no outside affirmation and warned that “we have no moral right to push a big European state to any kind of massive disorder”.
Putin has been criticised in the West for strongly supporting Yanukovych during the presidential campaign and for congratulating him on winning the vote even before the official results were announced.
Yastrzhembsky, asked if the issue has caused a “serious chill” in Russia’s relations with Western Europe, said he did not think so.
Neither the West nor Russia is interested in a major rift, noting that the EU is “our main trade partner” and the biggest source of direct foreign investment in the country.
Turning away from the West would be “extraordinarily painful”, he added.