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Moscow accuses Kiev of conducting “anti-Russian” policy

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, August 12
On August 11 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a letter to his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko accusing him of adopting an anti-Russian policy and informing him that Moscow is refusing to appoint a new Ambassador to Ukraine to replace the previous one, whose term had expired.

“The political leadership of Ukraine stubbornly continues to pursue accession to NATO. And as a so-called argument you hint at a “Russian threat” to Ukrainian security, something which, as you are well aware, does not and cannot exist,” says Medvedev’s letter which he made public and also quoted in an address recorded in the Russian Black Sea town of Sochi and televised trough the main Russian TV channels.

“Kiev has consistently sought to sever existing economic ties with Russia, primarily in the field of energy. These actions threaten the ability of our countries to reliably use what is, in fact, a unified gas transmission system that ensures the energy security of Russia, Ukraine and many European nations. Despite our repeated appeals at various levels, virtually nothing has been done to stop the violation of the property rights of Russian investors in Ukraine. All this has essentially undermined the formerly solid economic foundations of our bilateral partnership,” says the letter.

In addition to Ukraine’s pro-Western ambitions Medvedev also condemns the official Kiev position of support for Georgia in the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008. “A negative public reaction was caused by Ukraine's anti-Russian stance concerning the brutal attack on South Ossetia by Saakashvili's regime. A year after those tragic events, once again the question of why civilians and Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinval [the Russified name of South Ossetian de facto capital Tskhinvali] were killed with Ukrainian weapons has arisen. Those in Kiev who supplied the Georgian Army with weapons and, by the way, do not intend to stop doing so, fully share with Tbilisi the responsibility for the committed crimes,” stated the President of Russia.

The letter concludes by stating the decision of Medvedev to “postpone sending a new Russian Ambassador to Ukraine,” in view of the “anti-Russian position of the current Ukrainian authorities.” However the Russian President underlines that the Ukrainian and Russian people are “fraternal”. “In Russia we hope that the new political leadership of Ukraine will be ready to build relations between our countries that correspond to the genuine aspirations of our peoples and help strengthen European security,” Medvedev adds.

The Russian President’s letter has already provoked sharp reaction in both Kiev and Tbilisi. According to the Rada [Ukrainian Parliament] Deputies of Nasha Ukraina, a pro-Yushchenko party, Medvedev’s letter is an attempt to pressurise Ukraine connected with the upcoming Ukrainian Presidential elections. Deputy Andrey Parubyi believes that Russia will try to promote a pro-Russian candidate in these elections who will reverse Ukraine’s pro-Western policy. “If this does not happen, Russia will take a very sharp position on Ukraine as it has in recent years,” stated Parubyi, adding that the letter is directed personally against Viktor Yushchenko, “who won’t let Ukraine become a Russian colony.”

However some other Ukrainian politicians have welcomed Medvedev’s comments. The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc in the Rada, which is in opposition to the current Ukrainian President, has said that Medvedev’s accusations against Yushchenko are “adequate.” “I consider that the next Ukrainian President should cardinally alter our [Russian-Ukrainian] relations and make them friendly again,” opposition MP Valery Pisarenko has said, according to Ukrainian media.

Georgian politicians have also commented. Georgian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Nalbandov has stated that the Georgian Foreign Ministry is “worried” by the state of relations between Ukraine and Russia. “It seems that Russia has lost any kind of ability to conduct civilized negotiations” stated Nalbandov, noting that this letter doesn’t mean that military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, such as occurred in Georgia, is possible but “when one talks about Russia no scenario can be excluded, and that means the international community should pay proper attention to the steps of the Kremlin.”

Giorgi Baramidze, Georgia’s Vice-Premier and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Issues, was sharper in his reaction to Medvedev’s letter. “Russia continues to pursue its imperialistic policy and Ukraine is now a target. They [Russia] want to increase tensions there before the Presidential elections,” Giorgi Baramidze told the Georgian media on August 11. “What happened last August in Georgia it was not simply Russia’s whim and it did not happen because, as our opponents say, we made mistakes. This was a well-planned action undertaken because Russia wants to restore its empire,” Baramidze added.

Georgian political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili considers that Medvedev’s address was recorded in Sochi, with a view of the Black Sea behind him, for a reason. “This was one more sign for Ukraine, a warning that if it continues with its current policy it may have trouble in Crimea just like Georgia had in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the analyst told The Messenger on Tuesday. “When the whole civilized world considers that internal policy is the prerogative of a sovereign country, the Russian President allows himself to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart in such a sharp tone, and conduct nothing less than a rude intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine,” he added.

“It also seems that the Russian President wants to kill several birds with one stone. With this letter Medvedev also addresses the West and shows that he is not going to consider their opinion. Especially it is important for the USA, because it shows that no “restart” [in US-Russian relations] can be conducted if it means Russia loses control over the ex-Soviet republics. Medvedev is also showing his support for the Russian population in Ukraine and Russian Crimean residents, saying almost openly that Russia will defend its interest in these areas, and of course it is an attempt to apply pressure on Ukrainian society just before the elections. Criticising Ukraine’s support of Georgia last August is just a part of this,” he added.

“This letter will be a new headache and a new challenge for the West, however it should not be left without a proper answer, because in this case it will be impossible to stop Russia’s imperial ambitions, and the situation in [Georgian breakaway regions of ] Abkhazia and South Ossetia could easily be repeated in the Ukrainian Crimea,” stated Tsiskarishvili.