Russia recalls ambassador to Kiev for 'consultations'

Russia recalls ambassador to Kiev for 'consultations'

Russia recalls ambassador to Kiev for consultations

A demonstrator holds up a placard reading 'No fascism on Russian land' as people wave Russian flags during a protest in the center of the southern Ukrainian city of Sevastopol, the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, on Feb 23. AFP photo

Russia is calling its ambassador to Ukraine back to Moscow for "consultations", the foreign ministry said Feb. 23, after tumult in Kiev led to pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych being toppled and replaced with a pro-EU leadership from the opposition.

"Due to the escalation of the situation in Ukraine and the necessity of analysing the existing situation from all sides, a decision has been made to recall the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine (Mikhail) Zurabov to Moscow for consultations," the foreign ministry said in a statement late Feb. 23.

Three months of protests in central Kiev led to carnage and nearly 100 dead last week after clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators. The crisis also led to President Viktor Yanukovych's flight from the capital and parliament voting to call new elections on May 25.

The political crisis in Ukraine also triggered a tug of war over Russia's neighbour between Moscow and the West, with Moscow accusing Western diplomats of meddling and encouraging unrest, and calling protesters extremists and even "neo-Nazis."

The protests started in November as rallies against Yanukovych's decision to back out of an Association Agreement with the European Union and opt for closer relations with Russia, but evolved into a broad movement against his rule.

Western officials gave cautious but vital backing to the changes in Ukraine, but Russia warned that a bailout loan agreed with Yanukovych and desperately needed for the country's empty coffers was on hold.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Feb. 23 told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the opposition in Ukraine had "de-facto seized power, is refusing to lay down weapons and continues to rely on violence."