Norway pledges Ukrainian support

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Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende was in Kiev on Thursday to hold talks with acting President Oleksandr Turtsjynov and offer economic support to the new Ukrainian government. Brende warned Norway’s support would come with conditions, including tackling corruption and better protection for ethnic minorities.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende visited Kiev's Independence Square to lay flowers and pay his respects to those who've died in the protests over recent months. He promised economic support to a new Ukrainian government, provided the new leaders work to stamp out corruption and the concentration of power, and provide safeguards for ethnic Russian minorities. PHOTO: A Versto/Utenriksdepartementet

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende visited Kiev’s Independence Square to lay flowers and pay his respects to those who’ve died in the protests over recent months. He promised economic support to a new Ukrainian government, provided the new leaders work to stamp out corruption and the concentration of power, and provide safeguards for ethnic Russian minorities. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet/Astrid Verstø

Brende told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) he planned to reiterate Norway’s opposition to Russia’s violation of international law, and pledge a yet-to-be-settled amount of financial support in cooperation with the European Union, the US and International Monetary Fund. But he said Norway will make demands in return.

“There has been mismanagement in Ukraine in recent years which has led the country to near bankruptcy,” he said, arguing economic reforms are needed to stamp out corruption and remove power from the oligarchs who have too much control. He said laws protecting the rights of Russian minority groups in Ukraine’s east and a democratic election in May were critical.

“I see it as a good and representative government, made up of varied representatives,” he told NRK. “I believe it’s a government we can cooperate with. When Ukraine confirms it will implement reforms, we will also firm up the initiatives Norway will undertake to get Ukraine out of the economic morass.”

Tensions, negotiations continue
Russian troops remained stationed in Ukraine’s contested Crimea Peninsula throughout Thursday. Local authorities voted to join the territory with Russia, while world leaders held crisis meetings in Brussels to discuss sanctions against Russia.

Presidential candidate and former boxer Vitalij Klitsjko spoke to NRK at a European Conservatives congress in Dublin, and said he’d welcome any punitive measures but doubted they’d be effective.

“There is only one place this crisis can be resolved and it is not in Brussels, not in Kiev but in Moscow,” Klitsjko said. Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arsenij Jatsenjuk and former government leader Julia Timosjenko also attended the summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU leaders José Manuel Barroso and Herman van Rompuy were also expected to attend.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg arrived in Dublin on Thursday, and told news bureau NTB she was looking forward to discussions with the Ukrainians. She met with Timosjenko and former Georgian president Mikhail Saakasjvili, whose country had its own armed clashes with Russia in August 2008. “No diplomatic solution can come without sanctions,” Saakasjvili told NRK, and said the international community must be firm with Russia.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate