Dec 6 - The Cold War-style rift between Russia and Western Europe over Ukraine widens as foreign ministers gather for an OSCE summit in Kiev, with Russia denouncing the West for 'interference' in Ukrainian affairs. Ivor Bennett reports on the growing tensions over the country and the pressures on its fragile economy.
The prize everyone wants. Ongoing protests in Ukraine have made it the centre of a political tug-of-war between east and west. Despite having its offer of trade deal spurned, the EU's not giving up hope of closer ties. Much to Russia's dislike. Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER, DMITRY MEDVEDEV, SAYING: "Taking part in these events, it's, excuse me, very simple: interference in internal affairs." The comments refer to Germany's foreign minister after he visited protestors in Kiev. Guido Westerwelle met with opposition figures, in a move seen as a snub to Ukraine's leaders, and one that's ruffled Russian feathers. The rift's developed as EU foreign ministers meet in the Ukrainian capital for the OSCE conference. The endless, sometimes violent, protests providing an embarrassing backdrop for a summit on security. Western nations have seized the chance to enter the debate. US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, VICTORIA NULAND, SAYING: "There should be no doubt where the United States stands on all of this. We stand with the people of Ukraine who see their future in Europe and want to bring their country back to economic health and unity." The protests in Kiev are now in their third week. The unrest taking its toll on the country's fragile economy. Ukraine's central bank has already twice been forced to support the currency this week. And the cost of insuring the country's mounting debt is rising with the risk of default looming large. Reuters Breakingviews Europe editor Pierre Briancon. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS BREAKINGVIEWS, EUROPE EDITOR, PIERRE BRIANCON, SAYING: "It's only going to get worse. So who's going to get burnt? In the extreme scenario where they do default, you're talking about some Austrian banks, Italian, a few French ones, German as well. On a global basis it's manageable. The question is for Ukraine and Ukrainians: what happens then if they go into the real nightmare scenario? Russia doesn't have the means to support Ukraine and probably won't do it. It only has friendly political pressure to exercise." Some relief may be on the way. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has been in China this week securing deals he says will bring 8 billion dollars of investment. Good news for the economy. But he'll need more than that to stem the tide of unrest, as protestors and opposition leaders demand his resignation.