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Russia says it won't interfere in Ukraine's affairs

KIEV, Ukraine, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Russia won't interfere with events in Ukraine and expects other countries to follow its lead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

"We have confirmed our principled position to not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs and expect all [foreign powers] to follow a similar logic," Lavrov said.

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Lavrov also said it would be "dangerous and counterproductive" for governments to deliver a message to Ukraine of that "either you're with us or against us" as it works to establish its unity government, RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine's acting government Monday declared ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, missing since Sunday, a fugitive wanted for mass murder in the clashes between protesters and police last week that resulted in at least 82 deaths and more 1,100 injuries. Yanukovych was impeached by Parliament Saturday, a day after he signed a compromise deal with opposition leaders, envisaging a new national unity government, constitutional changes to hand powers back to Parliament and early elections to be held by December.

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On Monday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would not deal with what he termed armed mutineers in Kiev.

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A presidential election is scheduled for May 25. However, Lavrov suggested that the election be delayed until constitutional reforms are carried out in September, as agreed to in the document signed between Yanukovych and the opposition leaders.

"The agreement from Feb. 21 envisions that this reform should be carried out through to September, and that only after that -- it is specifically underlined -- and until the end of the year should the presidential election take place," Lavrov said.

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The anti-government protests began in November when Yanukovych changed his mind about signing political and trade agreements with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. As part of the deal, Russia said it would grant Ukraine $15 billion in loans to help with the cash-strapped country's debts, but it was unclear to what extent that pledge would be kept, RIA Novosti said.

On Monday, Ukraine's interim finance minister said the country was seeking at least $35 billion in aid from Western governments.

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