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Kerry: 'Disturbing' Trend Of Authoritarianism In Eastern Europe

Secretary of State John Kerry has criticized what he calls a "disturbing trend" among governments in eastern and central Europe to "trample the ambitions" of their people.

Speaking at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, Kerry said:

"The aspirations of citizens are once again being trampled beneath corrupt, oligarchic interests — interests that use money to stifle political opposition and dissent, to buy politicians and media outlets, and to weaken judicial independence and the rights of non-governmental organizations."

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, reporting from Munich, says Kerry singled out the crisis in Ukraine, saying that nowhere is the fight for a democratic European future more important than there.

"The offers of President Yanukovich have not yet reached an adequate level of reform and an adequate level of sharing of the future," Kerry said.

Embattled Yanukovich, who has been the target of a months-long campaign by anti-government protesters opposed to his government's cozy relations with Moscow, signed into law an amnesty for demonstrators detained during the unrest.

But Reuters reports that the move "was not likely to be enough to end the sometimes violent anti-government protests on the streets of Kiev and other cities."

Reuters writes:

"The 63-year-old leader, who looks increasingly isolated in a tug-of-war between the West and Ukraine's former Soviet overlord Russia, suddenly withdrew from view on Thursday, complaining of a high temperature and acute respiratory ailment. He was not seen in public on Friday."

At the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed Western support of the Ukrainian opposition and suggested it was leading to the escalation of violence.

The Associated Press writes:

"Kerry made his remarks alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who did not directly mention Ukraine but echoed Kerry's call for a 'trans-Atlantic renaissance,' or redoubling of efforts to improve all manner of cooperation between the United States and its European allies in NATO."

"A subtle but significant sub-theme of Hagel's speech was his assertion that he and Kerry are intent on giving relatively more weight to diplomacy in U.S. foreign affairs and less to the military. ..."

"Hagel said this means advancing a 'renewed and enhanced era of partnership' with allies, including those in Europe who were troubled by what they saw as unwise and even arrogant U.S. use of force in Iraq. It also means working mostly behind the scenes in troubled areas of the globe, including in Africa, to help unstable countries defend their lands without direct U.S. military intervention."

"'The United States will engage European allies to collaborate more closely, especially in helping build the capabilities of other global partners,' Hagel said."

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