3:21 pm - Friday November 6, 2015

Ukraine wants India to flay Russian support to rebels

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Calling the shooting down of the Malaysian airways flight over Ukraine “an act of terrorism”, Ukrainian Ambassador to India, Oleksandr Shevchenko said India must condemn Russia’s support to separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. “We expect from India a more unequivocal expression on Russia’s intervention into Ukraine. You are friends, best friends, and you should talk to Russia about this,” said Mr. Shevchenko, in an interview to The Hindu.

A day after the tragic plane crash over the rebel-held Donetsk region that left 295 people dead, the Ukrainian government claims it has intercepts of a rebel commander and his Russian ‘supervisor’, that Ukraine believes is a Russian Army intelligence officer, Col. Vasily Geranin. “Two other Ukraine military planes have been shot down in the past few weeks,” claimed Mr. Shevchenko, “In this case, in the intercepts, one of the militant leaders was boasting about the downed aircraft with his Russian supervisor Russian Army Col. Vasily Geranin of the intelligence directorate. He said, ‘We have shot down an aircraft, but it is not the plane that we had targeted.” And the Russian reply was, “That is fine, nobody should fly over Ukraine.” Mr. Shevchenko alleged that Russian-backed rebels of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ want to enforce an “economic blockade” on Ukraine, by ensuring there were no flights over the country or flights going into Kiev.

The Ukrainian ambassador also criticised former NSA Shivshankar Menon’s statement in March 2014 of recognising Russia’s ‘legitimate interests’, saying, “We have never accepted that Russia has any legitimate interest in Ukraine. We believe that annexation of Crimea is illegal, it is an act of aggression, and Russia is supporting terrorists in Eastern Ukraine… Our message to the MEA, to India’s leaders, is that as a country that aspires to be a UN Security Council member, India should make a more clear statement on supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Referring to the story in The Hindu that PM Modi’s flight was among dozens that had to be routed around the Ukraine after the crash, Mr. Shevchenko called the scenario “nightmarish”. “It just proves that terrorism doesn’t limit itself to the borders of any country, and India should recognise that too,” he said.

Russia’s response

Russia’s defence ministry on Friday denied any involvement in the shooting of MH17. In a statement that was carried by the Interfax agency, the Russian statement said:

“In view of various kinds of speculations regarding operations of the Russian armed forces in the areas bordering Ukrainian, we affirm that air defence means of the Russian armed forces were not operating in that region on July 17.

Instead, the Russian Defence Ministry claimed that Buk-M1 air defence missile launchers belonging to the Ukrainian army were deployed in the plane crash area.

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