MOSCOW, April 08, /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday criticized a top official in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for her position regarding the situation in Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich apparently reacted to a statement made by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors in early April.
“Moscow was perplexed by Astrid Thors’ public assessments made after her recent trips to Ukraine that she remains concerned about the situation in Crimea, in particular, the complicated situation the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian population found itself in,” the diplomat said.
“It’s necessary to note that this is not the first time that Thors distributes such assessments, which have nothing to do with reality,” he said.
“Evident threats that the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine (unlike the multiethnic population of Russia’s Crimea) has faced after an anti-constitutional coup in the country and an armed seizure of power, which, by the way, impelled the Crimean authorities to make an absolutely legitimate decision to hold a referendum, are again… overlooked by the high commissioner,” Lukashevich said.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, held a referendum March 16 in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The reunification deal with Moscow was signed March 18.
The developments followed a coup in Ukraine in February after months of anti-government protests, which often turned violent. New people were brought to power in Kiev amid deadly riots after President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave Ukraine citing security concerns in February. Moscow does not recognize the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities.
The new Ukrainian leadership and the West claim the Crimean plebiscite was illegal and do not recognize Crimea part of Russia despite repeated statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials that the Crimean referendum complied with the international law and the UN Charter, and was also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.
“The statement by Thors has no word about continuing violence in Ukraine by nationalist radicals and neo-Nazis, intimidation of those who disagree with the ‘new authorities’ and implantation of their own rules by extremist forces with connivance from de facto authorities in Kiev, which is actually the key source of interethnic tensions and causes just indignation in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions,” Lukashevich said.
“There is more than enough of information on such violations, and it was provided to Ms. Thors by representatives of Russia and Ukraine’s Russian speaking population,” he said.
The diplomat said that “despite that, the high commissioner makes markedly soothing statements regarding the situation with the Russian language in Ukraine”.
“And this against the backdrop of the self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities banning Russian TV channels’ broadcasts, which is an act of political censorship incompatible with democracy,” he said.
“This position of the OSCE high commissioner makes us doubt her readiness to assess the situation in Ukraine objectively and without bias,” Lukashevich said. “We hope that this one-sided approach will change.”
According to a statement on the OSCE website dated April 4, Thors remains concerned about the situation in Crimea. “The people in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian community, are in a precarious position," she said.
In an earlier OSCE statement dated March 6, Thors said that during her visits to Kiev and Crimea, she found “no evidence of violations or threats to the rights of Russian speakers”.