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Full transcript of the interview with Ukraine Ambassador

New Delhi, 18/07/2014: To Go with Suhasini's Article--Ukraine Ambassador to India, Oleksandr Shevchenko during a interview in New Delhi on July 18, 2014. Photo: R_V_Moorthy   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

Tell us about the state of investigations into the tragic plane crash over Donetsk?

It is still early to say much and of course we should wait for State emergency commission. Ukraine will find who is responsible for this terrorist act to shoot down this passenger plane. We have welcomed an international inquiry, and will allow American experts, Dutch experts, Malaysian officials who want to help with the investigation.

The debris is scattered over 15 square kilometres, which is under the operative control of separatists and terrorists. But we are now in talks with them to allow access to the area under investigation. And we will help any family members to come to Ukraine, we will support them in any way.

But your government holds separatist pro-Russian rebels responsible for the crash?

Yes.

Even so, their commanders say they don't have the capability to shoot down a commercial airliner at that height. In fact they suggest that only the Ukraine forces could have done this…

That's twisted logic...in the past two-three weeks, two Ukrainian military planes, fighter jets have been shot down. So we know they have SAMs — what are called BuK missiles produced by the Russian Federation. The problem is that the border is not secure and is being used for the infiltration of Russian military personnel, mercenaries who have been in Chenchnya, Russian federations. So we know they are there and being supported by Russia. Those aircraft shot down were providing anti-terror supplies. It was definitely done by the terrorists.

Some in Russia saying President Putin was actually the target.

This is a smokescreen. We have intercepts of talks between the terrorists and their Russian supervisors in Russia. In this case, one of the militant leaders was boasting about the downed aircraft with his Russian supervisor, a colonel of the main intelligence directorate of the Russian Army Col. Vasily Geranin. He said, “We have shot down the aircraft, but it is not the plane that we targeted.” And the Russian reply was, “That is fine, nobody should fly over Ukraine.”

Was it unsafe to have allowed flights in this air corridor at all? After all, the Crimean corridor of Simferopol has been closed for months.

I can’t speculate what is in the mind of these terrorists. Whether it is to stop all activity, to prove Ukraine is unstable so no one travels here. This is part of an economic blockade, they want to devalue our economy. Shutting down the flights as has been decided by ICAO and Eurocontrol, will hurt us. This was a zone of safety and security, we had never had any conflicts. These Russian ethnic minorities that Russia claims have never been treated badly, there were no human rights violations.

Is a ceasefire, as the international community has appealed for, a possibility?

Our newly elected President has offered a ceasefire before but the terorrists refuse to abide by it. However if anyone is willing to lay down their arms, will be given amnesty, and he has announced that already. But Russia has to stop supporting them. It is not possible for a group of 2,000-3,000 to hold back the Ukraine army alone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condoled the deaths of those onboard MH17. But the last statement India made was to support Russia on the Crimean annexation. What would the Ukrainian government expect from the new government?

Well, it was not exactly a statement, but the former Indian NSA Mr. [Shivshankar] Menon spoke of Russia’s ‘legitimate interests’ in Crimea in a talk. This gave the impression that India supported Russia, that it condoned the annexation of Crimea, and that has had unfortunate consequences. And then President Putin called to thank PM Singh for his support. 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.

We are aware that India and Russia have a relationship of strategic and privileged partnership. But we expect from India a more unequivocal expression on Russia’s intervention into Ukraine. You are friends, best friends, maybe you should talk to Russia about this.

Are you disappointed with India’s stand?

We do understand India and Russia have excellent relations. But we have said to the MEA, to India’s leaders, that as a country that aspires to be a U.N. Security Council member, it should make a more clear statement on supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

PM Modi’s was reportedly among many flights diverted around the Ukraine after the crash. Did you have any contact with the government over this?

This is a nightmare to just imagine that the aircraft with the Indian PM could have been in danger. It just proves that terrorism doesn’t limit itself to the borders of any country, and India should recognise that too.


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