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Ukraine protests no matter for foreign government, President Yanukovych says

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych lashes out at foreign interference as European leaders chastise Russia for meddling.

Ukraine protest viktor yanukovych 12 20 13Enlarge
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, third from left, former Ukrainian presidents Viktor Yushchenko, left, Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, far right, attend a service marking the end of the year 2013 in Kiev on December 20, 2013. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Political battles continued Friday in Ukraine, with European Union representatives chiding Russian interference and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych blasting foreign interference.

A steady stream of foreign officials has visited demonstrators railing against Yanukovych’s decision to reject an EU trade agreement for a cozier relationship with Russia.

Leaders from the EU, Germany, the United States and Canada have been spotted amid the protests.

“I am categorically against anybody coming and teaching us how to live,” Yanukovych told reporters, according to BBC. “What is very important is that this is our internal matter, and that other countries do not intervene in our internal affairs.”

Russia offered a $15-billion bailout and deep discounts on gas prices to Ukraine weeks after Yanukovych balked at signing the EU deal.

As European leaders ended two days of meetings on Friday, they released a statement that “emphasizes the right of all sovereign states to make their own foreign policy decisions without undue external pressure.”

EU president Herman Van Rompuy said nobody is trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Ukraine, but still Europe offers the best way forward.

“The future of Ukraine lies with Europe,” he said, Agence France-Presse said. “One can try to slow it down, to block it, but in the end no one can prevent it. … We have made it abundantly clear that the EU’s agreements with partner countries in the region are not at Russia’s expense.”

Talks between Russia and the EU are set for next year.

Yet, while the EU is anxious to count Ukraine among its friends, Yanukovych isn’t necessarily invited. He embarrassed EU leaders who gathered in Lithuania last month for a signing ceremony that was suddenly disrupted with Ukraine’s reversal.

“Europe is open for Ukrainian people, but not necessarily for this government. That’s the message,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Friday, Reuters reported.

The Ukrainian president tried to make concessions to his opponents, who have staged weeks of street demonstrations against him.

He invited activists, political opponents and journalists to a roundtable to discuss ending the unrest, according to Bloomberg. Yanukovych wasn’t to attend Friday's meetings in Kiev, however.

More from GlobalPost: As Ukraine protests, Georgia looks west 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/131220/ukraine-protests-foreign-interference-president-yanukovych