US Secretary of State John Kerry praised Moldova on Wednesday for signing agreements for greater trade with the European Union (EU), and expressed support for Ukraine making a similar shift from Russia to the EU.
However, the Los Angeles Times noted that his 4 hour Moldova visit came after a decision to skip a planned Ukraine trip.
Ukraine has been rocked by massive protests, with hundreds of thousands taking Kiev's Independence Square. The protests, which some have called a "revolution," follow President Viktor Yanukovich's announced shelving of planned association and trade agreements with the EU.
Ukraine's decision to stay aligned with Russia has elicited a massive popular response. Just Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators besieged government buildings in Kiev, effectively taking control of the center of the capital amid violent clashes in which police brutality was captured on video.
In Moldova, at the Trade and Investment Showcase, Kerry spoke at the Cricova Winery which traces its legacy back to the 15th century CE. He praised the nation's recent alliance with the EU as a sort of "Moldovan spring."
Kerry said he learned the word "Chisinau," the name of the town housing the winery, "comes from a root that means 'new spring,'" adding "I can’t think of a better way to capture what is happening here now or a better thing to celebrate."
From his words it was clear that Kerry hoped the "spring" would spread to embattled Ukraine.
"European integration is the best road for both security and prosperity for Moldova. ...To the people of the Ukraine, we say the same thing: You, too, deserve the opportunity to choose your own future. Let me make it clear: The United States and the European Union strongly believe that European integration does not have to be a zero-sum game."
Like Moldova, Kerry asserted that a change could present Ukraine as well "with a diverse and pluralistic set of options in the world."
On Wednesday morning Kerry attended the NATO-Russia Council Meeting in Brussels, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asked whether NATO is planning to "put itself in Ukraine." His question followed Tuesday's statement by NATO in support of the wishes of the Ukrainian people.
In response to Lavrov, NATO representatives called his question provocative, saying they support the "aspirations of the Ukrainian people for a European future," but that no military operation was planned in Ukraine.
Kerry later met with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, according to senior State Department officials. The two reportedly talked about Ukraine.
Ashton’s deputy, Helga Schmid, will represent the EU at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Kiev on Thursday, while Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland will represent the US. The two will try "to work together to help the Ukrainian Government and the opposition work on a roadmap back to Europe."
At the OSCE meeting Guido Westerwelle, Germany's outgoing Foreign Minister, met Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitschko and visited Independence Square on Wednesday evening, reports Deutsche Welle.