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Ukraine president heads to Sochi for talks with Putin

By AFP - Feb 06,2014 - Last updated at Feb 06,2014

KIEV — Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, found himself squeezed between mounting pressure by the United States and Russia on Thursday as the former cold war superpowers sought to influence a political crisis wracking his ex-Soviet satellite state.

Yanukovych late Thursday was to fly to Sochi to hold talks with Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics opening, his office said.

His departure on the two-day trip was taking place just after Yanukovych held talks in Kiev on Thursday with US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

The back-to-back meetings underlined the ratcheted-up struggle between Washington and Moscow to bring Ukraine into a Western or a Russian orbit, and the stakes as Yanukovych weathers more than two months of pro-West demonstrations that have badly weakened his rule.

Sharpening the tone, the Kremlin on Thursday accused the United States of arming Ukranian “rebels” and warned Russia could intervene to end the crisis.

“The stunts the Americans are pulling today by crudely interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs in a unilateral manner are an obvious violation” of a 1994 treaty giving the US and Russia roles as security co-guarantors for Ukraine, Sergei Glazyev, Putin’s economic adviser, told the Ukrainian edition of Russia’s Kommersant.

When conflicts arise, the guarantors “are obliged to intervene”, Glazyev said.

The hawkish adviser, who is viewed as the Kremlin pointman on Ukraine, said: “According to our information, American sources spend $20 million a week on financing the opposition and rebels, including on weapons.”

He alleged that militants were briefed in the US embassy and being armed.

One Ukrainian activist, Dmytro Bulatov told reporters in a hospital in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, that he had been abducted in Ukraine, “crucified” to a wooden door and beaten until he was made to say he was an American spy.

“I told them that the American ambassador had given me 50,000 dollars,” Bulatov said. “It was so scary, it was so painful that I asked them to kill me. I lied because I could not stand the pain.”

The US embassy did not immediately comment on Glazyev’s allegations.

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