Russia must protect citizens but does not want war with Ukraine – top diplomat

Russian Foreign Ministry Building Tower file photo

(Interfax – March 2, 2014) A senior Russian diplomat has said that Russia does not want war with Ukraine and will support those in favour of stronger relations between the two countries, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 2 March. Another report quoted the diplomat, State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin, saying that Russia has to protect its citizens, and that normal relation could follow, but only if the Ukrainian government meets certain conditions.

“I am convinced that no-one in Russia wants war,” Interfax quoted Karasin saying on the air of the “Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyev” talk show on Russian official state television channel Rossiya 1. “We are against discussing our relations with Ukraine, which is close to us, in those terms. We will support in every way all the forces that are in favour of strengthening our bilateral relations, all the more so because stability in Europe depends on these relations. This is what the Western politicians who are berating us so strongly should realize,” he added.

A later Interfax report quoted Karasin saying on the same talk show: “We have to protect our people, our citizens… [ellipsis as received] After that, another period will begin in our relations. We shall return to normal relations, people will go on holidays [presumably to the Crimea, with its popular resorts], people will talk to each other.”

“This, however, can only happen if the Maydan government [i.e. the government supporting European integration], the victorious government, starts pursuing a real internal policy, tackling real problems, in accordance with the standards that exist in international practice,” Karasin went on, adding: “This is an essential condition.”

A later Interfax report gave more details of what internal policy Karasin had in mind. “The authorities in Ukraine should take the interests of regions into account,” he was quoted saying in the talk show. What is happening now, he went on, looks like “diktat” from the new government towards eastern and southern regions, “and we can see the negative reaction with which this is met in Crimea”.

“Sobering effect”

Another Interfax report quoted Karasin saying in the talk show that Russia expects its Federation Council’s decision to authorize President Vladimir Putin to send troops to Ukraine to “have a sobering effect on many people and demonstrate the seriousness of the Russian Federation’s intentions”.

He insisted that Moscow was guided, above all, by the need to ensure people’s safety and that it was concerned at the influx of refugees across the border from Ukraine to Russia. “I think our point of view will work its way in the end to the people who are really engaged in geopolitical adventurism in the former post-Soviet space,” Karasin said.

Ukraine’s sovereignty not in question

Later still, Interfax quoted Karasin saying in “Sunday Evening” talk show: “We do not in any way question Ukraine’s sovereignty.” “Ultimately, we are in favour of Ukraine as a thriving, stable, modern state,” he added.

Asked by presenter Solovyev about the recall of Canadian and French ambassadors, Karasin said it was “nothing special”. “To recall ambassadors is usual diplomatic practice if people want to show that they are concerned, or if they want to analyse the situation more profoundly,” he said.

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia