The United States and EU traded unusually sharp barbs with Russia yesterday over Ukraine's future amid concerns that Kiev could resort to possible military intervention to end anti-government protests.
Neither side pulled any punches, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying what happens in Ukraine is crucial for Europe's future while his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov blasted wilful and two-faced Western interference.
"Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine," Kerry told political, diplomatic and military leaders at the Munich Security Conference.
"The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight," said Kerry who later met Ukrainian opposition leaders in Munich.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told another panel that the EU wanted good relations with Russia, but that the Ukrainian people had to have the right to choose their own future, a future with Europe.
The West and Russia have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since Yanukovych ditched an EU association accord in November under pressure from a Moscow trying to bring its former Soviet satellite back into the fold.
His decision sparked off massive anti-government protests.
Kerry's meeting with the Ukraine opposition may have explained the unequivocally harsh remarks by Lavrov who accused the West of stoking the violence in Kiev in a clear example of double standards.
"Why are many prominent EU politicians actually encouraging such actions although back home they are quick to severely punish any violations of the law?" Lavrov told the conference.
"What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?," he said, speaking at the same panel as Van Rompuy.
Earlier yesterday, the party of opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he had warned European officials it was "very likely" Kiev would "resort to a use of force scenario, including with the involvement of the Ukranian army".