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06/12/2016

Ukrainian minister swears at Putin

Europe's East

Ukrainian minister swears at Putin

Russian embassy protest. Kyiv, 14 June. [EuroMaidanPR/YouTube]

Russia accused Ukraine’s acting foreign minister on Sunday of “going beyond the limits of decency” by calling President Vladimir Putin a “dickhead” during a violent protest outside its embassy in Kyiv, following the shooting down of a Ukrainian military transport, in which 49 servicemen were killed.

A senior member of Russian parliament called for Andriy Deshchytsia to resign and Moscow protested to Kyiv about Saturday’s violence, during which cars were overturned, windows broken and a Russian flag ripped up.

The protests were in response of the downing of a Ukrainian military plane by pro-Russian separatists on Saturday outside Luhansk, in which 49 Ukrainian servicemen were killed. Moscow denies backing the rebels.

Deshchytsia said he had gone to the rally to try to stop it turning violent, but video footage on YouTube also showed him saying “I am for you protesting. I am ready to be here with you and say ‘Russia, get out of Ukraine’.”

“Yes, Putin is a dickhead, yes,” he went on to say, and the protesters responded by chanting the phrase.

The violence has increased tensions that were already high following the overthrow of a Moscow-leaning president in Kyiv in February, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March and an uprising by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine that began in April.

In a telephone call with his French counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “expressed outrage over the inaction of the Kyiv authorities who allowed the rioting outside the Russian embassy,” the ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov also said a note had been sent complaining to Kyiv about the demonstrations, and that he had protested to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The United States and the European Union condemned the violence.

Limits of decency

Lavrov went on to criticise Deshchytsia, in comments to Russian reporters in Moscow in which he said the aim of the protest appeared to be to seize the embassy.

“I am particularly disturbed that the so-called protesters near the embassy were joined by Andriy Deshchytsia … having allowed himself to make statements that go beyond the limits of decency,” Russia news agencies quoted him as saying.

“I understand who he has to learn from,” Lavrov said, in a reference to the United States, Ukraine’s ally. “Nevertheless a diplomat, as Deshchytsia is, has to choose his words … I don’t know how he will talk to us and work with us now.”

Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian lower house of parliament’s international affairs committee, led calls in Moscow for Poroshenko to dismiss Deshchytsia.

“Poroshenko should change his foreign minister. He doesn’t control himself very well,” Pushkov said on Twitter, and went on to suggest in televised comments that Moscow should halt all dialogue with Kyiv and cut off gas supplies to Ukraine.

Deshchytsia, 48, was appointed in February on an interim basis because Ukraine at the time had an acting president who was not empowered to appoint him permanently.

He could be on the way out anyway, because President Petro Poroshenko, who was sworn in on 7 June, is expected to name a permanent foreign minister in the next few days.

Defending his actions, Deshchytsia, a career diplomat, told Moscow’s Ekho Moskvy radio station that he had urged the demonstrators to protest peacefully, and not resort to violence.

Asked about his comment on Putin, he said: “I have told you what I want to say. You asked for my comments [on the rally], I’ve made my comments.”

‘Kidnapping of children’

The Ukrainian authorities protested on Friday what they called ‘kidnapping of children’ by pro-Russian separatists.

Reportedly, on June 12, 2014, in Snizhne, Donetsk region, armed pro-Russian separatists kidnapped a group of 28 Ukrainian citizens, including 25 children from family-type orphan homes, who were en route to a health facility in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Threatening with weapons, the separatists forced the driver of their bus to change his route. The vehicle, together with its passengers, and accompanied by a group of armed men, was directed to the checkpoint “Dolzhanskyi”, in the Luhansk region, in order to transport them to the Russian Federation.      

According to available information, an accompanying person and 9 children were dropped off the bus on the Ukrainian-Russian border. However, 18 other persons were taken to the Russian Federation, and now they are staying in Donetsk, in the Rostov region of the Russian Federation.

“The Russian side has flagrantly violated international commitments related to respect for children’s rights undertaken under the multilateral conventions, including articles 11 and 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”, the Ukrinian authorities state.

These actions should be qualified as international kidnapping. Illegal transportation of children has relevant legal consequences for the separatists, as well as other persons who assisted them in committing this crime, Kyiv further stated, calling on the international community to strongly condemn “such immoral actions” and engage in order to assure immediate return of the Ukrainian citizens to their homeland. 

Positions

Council President Herman Van Rompuy stated after the downing of the Ukrainian military airplane, stressing that Russia bears “primary responsibility” for the developments.

“I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the Ukrainian people and Government for all the lives lost in the dramatic violence which is affecting the eastern provinces of the country and which continues to worsen.

“While legitimate force must always be used with restraint, there is no doubt that the Ukrainian Government has an obligation and a duty to restore order within its borders. There is equally no doubt that the armed fighters that are terrorising and disrupting the lives of citizens in Ukraine, are enjoying external support, including arms supply and reinforcement through foreign fighters.

“As a neighbouring State Russia bears a primary responsibility in ensuring that any such traffic and external support through its borders is immediately stopped. Any other attitude, and public ambiguity in relation to what is happening, is not compatible with Russia's international obligations within the OSCE or the UN.”

Background

The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia, triggering protests that turned bloody and drove him from power.

Moscow annexed Crimea in March following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Pro-Russian militants control buildings in more than ten towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April. On 11 May pro-Moscow rebels declared a resounding victory in a referendum in Donetsk, which the West called illegal and illegitimate. 

Further Reading