KIEV, June 5 â€“ A prominent Russian lawmaker has been denied entry to Ukraine on Saturday among other Russian nationals apparently due to their involvement in anti-NATO protests in Crimea, Ukraineâ€™s security service SBU said Monday.
Konstantin Zatulin, the chairman of the Russian-Ukrainian cooperation committee at the lower house of Russian Parliament, now faces action from the Foreign Ministry that may list him as persona non grata.
â€śZatulinâ€™s activity creates conditions for illegal actions that may lead to encroaching on territorial integrity of Ukraine and stirring up ethnic hostility,â€ť an SBU spokeswoman said.
The development suggests that Zatulin, among a group of other Russian nationals, has been involved in the protests in Crimea trying to prevent a scheduled NATO-Ukrainian military exercise.
This raises questions about Russiaâ€™s role in the spreading protests in Ukraine, including the alleged secret financing of pro-Russian parties in Crimea seeking to stall Kievâ€™s cooperation with NATO, analysts said.
Russia, which views NATO as a military threat, has been persistently calling against Ukraineâ€™s integration with the alliance. But Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, said last week Russia had nothing to do with the developing protests.
Zatulin last time visited Ukraine on Thursday.
â€śI was in Crimea to find out what are Crimeaâ€™s claims against NATO,â€ť Zatulin told Kommersant daily. After the trip, Zatulin said he had realized that â€śthose are the Ukrainian authorities that encroach on territorial integrityâ€ť of Ukraine.
The National Security and Defense Council, a body advising President Viktor Yushchenko on security issues, met on Friday following reports that the Russian nationals had been engaged in the protests.
Volodymyr Horbulin, the acting secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said the Russians have been blocking key roads in the area.
A day later, Yushchenko signed decree pledging Ukraine will go ahead with the exercise and ordered security agencies to deport â€śforeign nationalsâ€ť found to be involved in the protests.
This is the second time that Zatulin, who is known for his claims that Crimea and Sevastopol are parts of Russia, is denied entry to Ukraine.
Zatulin was listed by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry as persona non grata for five years from July 1996 through July 2001 apparently for ripping Ukrainian flag at a session of the Russian Parliament.
In 1998, Zatulin tried to sneak in Crimea, but had been stopped by Ukrainian border troops in Kerch and sent back to Russia. (tl/ez)