Ukraine Envoy Hits Out at UN Chief Over Russia

Ukraine Envoy Hits Out at UN Chief Over RussiaUkraine Envoy Hits Out at UN Chief Over Russia

Ukraine has reacted strongly to remarks by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that appeared to praise Russia in settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The Kiev envoy said Ban could not be a “provider of good offices”.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko has said the UN chief “cannot be a provider of good offices” in the Ukraine conflict. His comments follow remarks Ban made at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Thursday, which appeared to praise Russia, AFP reported.

Ban said Moscow had “a very important role to play and I really count heavily on the leadership of the Russian Federation”.

The UN chief’s spoken comments were slightly different from the text in his prepared speech which said Russia “has a critical role to play ... in addressing other pressing global issues, from ending the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, to safeguarding human rights and controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”.

The government in Kiev has accused Russia of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. “I’m completely outraged by such a statement,” Yelchenko said. “I don’t understand how the head of the United Nations can say such things.”

Yelchenko said he would be writing an official protest letter to the UN chief and added: “I don’t think that he has any moral right anymore to say anything about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also attended the forum in St. Petersburg. He said the European Union needed to engage with Russia, despite the sanctions of the last two years.

“I take the view that we must talk with Russia, the leadership, its people: for some it must be a radical idea; for me it’s commonsense,” he said.

Juncker became the highest-ranked European Union official to visit Russia since Moscow’s forces annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014. The move triggered sanctions from the United States and the European Union. Russia retaliated by banning imports of meat, vegetables and dairy products from the EU.

The EC chief said relationship between Russia and the EU was “not broken beyond repair. We need to mend it, and I believe we can.”

Juncker also conceded that “some in Europe weren’t pleased” with him meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin. But he said it was an opportunity to “exchange opinions”.