Mikhail Gorbachev calls for Ukraine unity

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Mikhail Gorbachev calls for Ukraine unity
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, 82, gives an interview to The Associated Press at the International Government Communication Forum, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. Gorbachev said Monday that the political turmoil in Ukraine looks like ?a real mess? but it is important that the country hold together in the battle for influence between Russia and the West. In his speech to the forum on Sunday, he said the political tumult in Ukraine was ultimately the result of the government?s failure to act democratically, engage in dialogue and fight corruption. (AP Photo/Al Moutasim Al Maskery)
The last ruling President of the Soviet Union and Guest of Honour, Mikhail Gorbachev speaks during the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2014) on February 23, 2014 in Sarjah in the United Arab Emirates. The event, gathering international professionals from the government, private and media sector, runs until February 24 under the theme 'Different Roles...Mutual Interest. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
The last ruling President of the Soviet Union and Guest of Honour, Mikhail Gorbachev speaks during the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2014) on February 23, 2014 in Sarjah in the United Arab Emirates. The event, gathering international professionals from the government, private and media sector, runs until February 24 under the theme 'Different Roles...Mutual Interest. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
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By ADAM SCHRECK

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) - The political turmoil in Ukraine looks like "a real mess" but it is important that the country hold together in the battle for influence between Russia and the West, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Monday.

The 82-year-old Gorbachev made the comments during an interview with The Associated Press in the United Arab Emirates city of Sharjah.

He emphasized the need for outside mediation to ease tensions in Ukraine, which became an independent country following the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union that he once led.

Ukraine today is deeply divided between largely pro-Russian eastern regions and western areas that long for closer ties with the European Union.

"No one wants it to come apart. I think that today it's important not to tear it apart," Gorbachev said of Ukraine. "I recently appealed to the leaders of the United States and Russia to act perhaps as mediators. And that would also include the European Union."

The mediators, he continued, could play a role in ensuring "that the crisis we see in Ukraine does not result in this kind of dramatic breakup. Let us give the people a chance to agree on something."

Gorbachev was in the Emirates to address the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah, which sits along the Persian Gulf coast just north of Dubai.

In his speech Sunday, he said the political tumult in Ukraine was ultimately the result of the government's failure to act democratically, engage in dialogue and fight corruption.

Demonstrators first began protesting late last year after President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned an agreement that would have strengthened his country's ties with the European Union in favor of seeking closer cooperation with Moscow.

"It looks like there is a real mess there and that the leaders of Ukraine proved unable to reach a kind of consensus in the country, in Ukrainian society. And that's why those issues became so acute," Gorbachev said. "There's a new Ukraine and it should find its own niche."

Ukraine's acting government is seeking the arrest of Yanukovych, whose whereabouts are uncertain, over accusations of mass crimes against protesters. Snipers fired on demonstrators last week during the bloodiest violence in Ukraine's post-Soviet history.

Gorbachev suggested Monday that no single outside power could dominate Ukraine's future.

"If the European Union wants to have things its own way, the United States wants to have things their own way, and Russia wants to have things its own way, I think that would be wrong," he said.

Mikhail Gorbachev calls for Ukraine unity
KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 22: Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko delivers a speech at the Independence Square after her release in the capital in Kiev, Ukraine on February 22, 2014. Tymoshenko, who was in prison since August 2011, was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for abusing her powers as prime minister by ordering Ukrainian Naftogaz to sign a gas deal with Russia in 2009. (Photo by Bulent doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 22: Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko delivers a speech at the Independence Square after her release in the capital in Kiev, Ukraine on February 22, 2014. Tymoshenko, who was in prison since August 2011, was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for abusing her powers as prime minister by ordering Ukrainian Naftogaz to sign a gas deal with Russia in 2009. (Photo by Bulent doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Newly freed Ukrainian opposition icon and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko delivers a speech on Kiev's Independence square on February 22, 2014. Ukraine's opposition leader and former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, sentenced to a seven-year jail term in 2011 for abuse of power, was released on February 22. Tymoshenko received a rapturous welcome on Independence Square. 'You are heroes, you are the best of Ukraine,' she told the 50,000-strong crowd before breaking down in tears. The latest developments in the ex-Soviet nation's three-month political crisis came after protesters took control of Kiev's charred city centre and seized Yanukovych's lavish residence on a day of dramatic twists and turns. AFP PHOTO / GENYA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Newly freed Ukrainian opposition icon and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko delivers a speech on Kiev's Independence square on February 22, 2014. Ukraine's opposition leader and former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, sentenced to a seven-year jail term in 2011 for abuse of power, was released on February 22. Tymoshenko received a rapturous welcome on Independence Square. 'You are heroes, you are the best of Ukraine,' she told the 50,000-strong crowd before breaking down in tears. The latest developments in the ex-Soviet nation's three-month political crisis came after protesters took control of Kiev's charred city centre and seized Yanukovych's lavish residence on a day of dramatic twists and turns. AFP PHOTO / GENYA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 22: A large photograph of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko hangs on the side of a structure on Independence Square before her address to anti-government protesters gathered there on February 22, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. The leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution against current embattled President Viktor Yanukovych traveled to Kiev to address the crowd immediately after being released from prison on what many claim were politically motivated charges. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
A crowd of people attend a rally at Independence Square in Kiev on February 22, 2014, moments after parliament voted to hold early presidential elections in May. Newly freed Ukrainian opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko received a rapturous welcome on Independence Square on February 22, 2014, declaring 'You are heroes, you are the best of Ukraine' to the 50,000-strong crowd before breaking down in tears. The latest developments in the ex-Soviet nation's three-month political crisis came after protesters took control of Kiev's charred city centre and seized Yanukovych's lavish residence on a day of dramatic twists and turns. AFP PHOTO / PIERO QUARANTA (Photo credit should read PIERO QUARANTA/AFP/Getty Images)
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