Xinhua says West must stop 'meddling' in Ukraine's affairs

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Western powers should stop meddling in Ukraine's affairs and manipulating the "opinions of the people" about a trade pact with the European Union, China's official government newswire Xinhua said on Friday.

The commentary, which came days after a visit to China by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, criticised western leaders for voicing support for the thousands of protesters who have rallied in Kiev's Independence Square for three weeks.

"The West must keep its hands off the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation," the commentary said. "Showing support for the anti-government protesters is a serious blow to Ukrainian democracy, not to mention that it could complicate regional affairs."

The commentary accused the West of "stoking confrontation"and turmoil in the region by pushing Ukraine towards the European Union "in a direct challenge to Moscow".

"Western meddling has aborted independent dialogue between the government and opposition, planting the seeds of future social and political division in the nation," it said.

Xinhua commentaries are not official policy statements, but can be read as reflections of Chinese government thinking.

The demonstrators are protesting against the Ukrainian government's turn in policy away from the European Union towards Russia.

US and European Union officials have called on Ukraine's President Yanukovich to start a dialogue with all parties involved in the protests, which are weighing on Ukraine's struggling economy.

Mr Yanukovich visited China last week in the hope of winning much-needed financial aid, but China did not say it would provide any loans. Mr Yanukovich said deals signed with China may bring Ukraine about US$8 billion (S$10 billion) in investment.

"Ukraine, domestically, is in flux," said Mr Cheng Guoping, vice-minister of foreign affairs, in remarks to journalists during Mr Yanukovich's visit.

"I believe the Chinese government respect's Ukraine's internal choice, and China does not interfere in other countries' internal politics."