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Yanukovych tells West to stay out of Ukraine's crisis after diplomat visit

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych Thursday told the West to stay out of his country's political crisis, after top European and U.S. diplomats visited the protests that have raged for a month in central Kiev.

In the first live interview with Ukraine's main television channels since the crisis broke last month, Yanukovych said a bailout deal with Moscow did not contravene Kiev's EU hopes but said Ukraine could still join clauses of a rival Kremlin-led trade bloc.

Both the United States and the European bloc has sided with opposition protesters, with senior Western diplomatic figures pointedly meeting with their leaders and attending protests.

“I am categorically against others coming to our country and teaching us how to live,” Yanukovych told reporters.

“What is very important is that this is our internal matter, and that other countries do not intervene in our internal affairs.”

Russia's stunning bailout package has infuriated the Ukrainian opposition leading mass protests against Yanukovych, whom they have accused of selling out to the Kremlin after rejecting an integration deal with the European Union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday agreed to buy US$15 billion of Ukraine's debt in eurobonds and slash Ukraine's gas bill by a third.

“Here (in the signed documents) there is no contradiction between Ukraine's course and whatever kind of integration,” Yanukovych said.

“We are not talking about integration, we are talking about economic relations,” he said, referring to ties with Russia which has pressed Kiev to join a Moscow-led Customs Union.

The Ukrainian government last month unexpectedly halted work on key political and free trade agreements with the European Union, sparking the largest demonstrations since the pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004.

Yanukovych added that Ukraine “took a pause” to decide on “what conditions we are signing the free trade zone agreement (with the EU).”

“When we will see that this is advantageous to us then no doubt a positive decision will be taken,” the Ukrainian president said.

Yanukovych also acknowledged that Kiev could adhere to certain clauses of the Customs Union which includes ex-Soviet Belarus and Kazakhstan.

“The government of Ukraine has received these (Customs Union) documents and is examining their clauses. And after drawing conclusions, we will decide which clauses (of the Customs Union) to join,” Yanukovych said in the interview.

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