KIEV, Dec. 24 – Senior Ukrainian and Russian diplomats were on the phone Thursday to ease tensions after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told Reuters that Russia must “attack” Ukraine and Georgia for their pro-Western foreign policy course.
"...Georgia, South Ossetia, Ukraine, all this will go on and on. It's Russia's private affliction,” Kadyrov said. “Why should we always suffer if we can eradicate this for good? We are a great power, we have everything - an army, technology. We need to attack."
The comment, also reported by The Daily Telegraph, sparked an international reaction as it comes 17 months after Russia invaded Georgia, sending jets, tanks and thousands of troops there.
As a result of the five-day war in August 2008, Russia de-facto annexed South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia’s two breakaway territories, despite international condemnation.
Many in Ukraine fear that Russia, which has been desperately seeking to reestablish itself as a global power, has also been working out a scenario to destabilize Ukraine’s Crimea region, which is dominated by ethnic Russians.
“Clearly aggressive and in fact militaristic statements from a senior Russian official are adding absolutely unacceptable accents into the atmosphere of partnership and mutual respect between the people of Ukraine and Russia,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.
The comment by Kadyrov, who enjoys total support of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s powerful prime minister, also comes at a sensitive time as Ukraine prepares for the next presidential election.
The election, due January 17, 2010, will pick the leader that will define Ukraine’s foreign policy during the next five years.
Volodmyr Khandohiy, the first deputy foreign minister of Ukraine, was on the phone with Grigoriy Karasin, the first deputy foreign minister of Russia, hours after the Kadyrov interview had been published.
“Karasin informed the Ukrainian party that the Russian foreign ministry is distancing itself from the Kadyrov statement,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, asked to comment on the Kadyrov comments, said he hadn’t read the interview. He also said Russia’s foreign policy does not anticipate attacking any other state.
“Speaking of the countries you’ve mentioned, we do not see any threat coming from Ukraine,” Lavrov said, suggesting that Russia still sees Georgia - a tiny country of 5 million people and an ally of the U.S. and Ukraine - as a potential threat.
Ukraine’s relations with Russia are at the lowest point ever after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has five months ago accused his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko of “anti-Russian” foreign policy.
This apparently included Kiev’s plans to join NATO, an alliance that Moscow views as a military threat, and plans to force Russian naval ships from a naval base in Sevastopol in 2017 when the 20-year lease agreement is expiring. (tl/ez)