KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- On the eve of the new year, world leaders reflected on the status and future of Ukraine and Russia relations.
Russia has been accused by Kiev and the West of inciting unrest in eastern Ukraine, and supplying both military equipment and personnel to the rebels in their battle against the Ukrainian government. The European Union and United States have imposed successive sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression toward Ukraine.
In a speech Wednesday marking the New Year and Orthodox Christmas, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk acknowledged public concern but conveyed his own optimism about the future.
"Everyone now thinks, what will happen tomorrow, and this is natural. People want to know what life will be like, and whether there is any confidence that tomorrow it will be better," said Yatsenyuk, answering: "There is such confidence."
"There are confidence and belief that we will overcome everything together, that we will all win, that our country will be a model country in the European Union, that our Ukrainian family will be a worthy European family, with a Ukrainian passport, with Ukrainian citizenship, and that with this passport it will be easy to move freely across the European Union...Advertisement
"Belief, confidence and hard work are the key to our Ukrainian success."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose closeness with Russian President Vladimir Putin has not prevented her from criticizing his actions toward Ukraine, emphasized the importance of European security in her New Year's speech.
"There is no question that we want security in Europe together with Russia, not against Russia," Merkel said in her pre-recorded New Year's Eve remarks, according to an advance copy provided by her office.
"But there is also no question that Europe cannot and will not accept a supposed right of the mightier, which does not respect international law," she cautioned. "This unity of Europe is not an end in itself, but it is the key to overcoming the crisis in Ukraine and applying the might of the law."
According to the Kremlin, Putin noted that the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of World War II "is a reminder of the responsibility Russia and the United States bear for maintaining world peace and stability and their special role in resisting global challenges and threats."