Ukraine condemns embattled Putin’s visit

Ukraine condemns embattled Putin’s visit

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has protested against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the illegally seized Crimea peninsula, calling it a “gross violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ukraine said attempts by Russia and its media to present such visits as routine were “pathetic”.

“Attempts by the Russian side and the mass media to describe such ‘visits’ as ‘ordinary’ domestic trips by Russian figures are pathetic,” the ministry said. It reiterated that Crimea was “integral” to Ukraine.

Putin wore a leather jacket at a biker show organised by the right-wing nationalist Night Wolves motorcycle club in Sevastopol, the peninsula’s largest city.

The Night Wolves are known for being pro-Kremlin.

Putin, who arrived at the event riding a motorbike, appeared to be the guest of honour, with bikers thronging around looking for selfies.

Russia occupied Crimea in March 2014 after the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced from power by the pro-EU Maidan movement.

The Kremlin has also backed unrest and separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 13,000 people have been killed since April 2014.

Domestic opposition

The Crimean visit comes as Putin faces growing disquiet at home.

Up to 60,000 people protested in Moscow on Saturday in an authorised demonstration to demand the right for non-government candidates to stand in Moscow’s municipal election in September.

Many protesters tried to reach the presidential administration buildings in a subsequent, unregistered protest and around 130 demonstrators were arrested.

More than 1,000 protesters have been detained following unregistered rallies since late July.

Russia has accused YouTube of spreading information on the unsanctioned opposition protests, calling recent push notifications interference in Russian sovereign affairs.

Roskomnadzor, the Russian media monitor, said yesterday (Sunday) it had told Google, YouTube’s owner, that users received push notifications “sharing information about unsanctioned mass events, including those aimed at disrupting elections”.  

Roskomnadzor did not threaten specific measures against Google but said Russia would have the right to retaliate if the company did not halt the push notifications and other advertising.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned US embassy representatives last week because its website shared a map of the August 3 protest, warning US citizens to avoid the area. The ministry said the “publishing of the illegal event’s scheme, which was prepared by the organisers, as an invitation to join the event and a call for action”.

A German envoy was also summoned because the Deutsche Welle media group allegedly supported the protests on social media. The news agency has rejected the claim.

In parallel with US probes about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the Russian parliament is planning to hold hearings this week about foreign interference in its elections.

Crimea seizure in 2014. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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