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India silent on Ukraine blacklisting three nationals

Sources say addition of their names may be a mistake; Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s advisor justifies listing, threatens sanctions

July 30, 2022 11:43 pm | Updated July 31, 2022 12:43 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The listing of a Centre run by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) that named the Chairperson of India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), P.S. Raghavan.

The listing of a Centre run by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) that named the Chairperson of India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), P.S. Raghavan. | Photo Credit: File Photo

The listing of a Centre run by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) that named the Chairperson of India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), P.S. Raghavan, on a list of people allegedly promoting “Russian propaganda”, might have been a “mistake”, said sources, indicating that the Ukrainian government should clarify its intent, given it's potential impact on relations. However, a senior Ukrainian official has justified the listing, calling the people named in its list "unconditional agents of Russian influence", and threatened sanctions against them.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) declined to comment on the Ukrainian government listing, that had first appeared on July 14, and was reported this week in The Wire. According to the Centre for Countering Disinformation report, Mr. Raghavan, whom it erroneously identified as a former Indian security official, was responsible for implying Ukraine was a cover for NATO in the conflict with Russia.

Mr. Raghavan has recently been reappointed by the government and is serving his third term as NSAB chief under NSA Ajit Doval.

All three Indians – Mr. Raghavan, U.S.-based author and former Congress party advisor Sam Pitroda, and veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi, whose names appeared on it – have rejected the listing. Mr. Raghavan, a former Ambassador to Russia and a regular contributor to The Hindu’s columns said the allegation was too “ridiculous to merit comment”. Mr. Raghavan and Mr. Pitroda were both invited to the same conference run by a U.S.-German think tank, the Schiller Institute, on Ukraine, and it is likely their names were added to the list along with others who had been contacted to participate in the institute’s conference in April this year, and that recommended a more conciliatory approach towards Russia by the European Union, the sources said. Mr. Raghavan said he had not participated in the online conference and it was possible his name was added without any verification.

However, speaking to author Kapil Kommireddi, who had worked briefly in a voluntary capacity with the Ukrainian First Lady’s team, Mr. Zelensky’s chief advisor and negotiator Mikhailo Podalyak defended the listing on Friday.

“The inclusion of certain people, including representatives of foreign states, in the ‘military illustration lists’ is absolutely justified because information is an extremely important part of the war as a whole,” Mr. Podolyak told the author for a column that appeared in The Print.

“Ukraine constantly monitors which public figures in the world are spreading Russia’s cannibalistic narratives. Recording such facts, we consider these people to be unconditional agents of Russian influence," he added.

In a statement, the head of the Schiller Institute, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, whose name is also on the NSDC list along with a few prominent European Parliament members and U.S. lawmakers like Tulsi Gabbard, said that it seemed the Ukraine Government report had specifically targeted the institute, as 30 of the list of 78 on the list had been speakers at their conferences.

“The ‘poor’ authors of the Center seem to suffer from the syndrome of belief in conspiracy theories, since they assume that such a wide array of speakers representing top institutions from around the globe are all Putin agents and can’t think for themselves,” Ms. Zepp-LaRouche said.

Mr. Naqvi said that columns he wrote criticising NATO and Ukraine for “provoking” the war suggesting that the western narrative on the progress of the war was false, as well as an interview he conducted with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisor Valery Fadeev in May is likely to have earned the Ukrainian government’s ire, and told The Hindu he stood by his views.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Delhi did not respond to requests for a comment. In a sudden move earlier this month, President Zelenskyy had recalled his long-serving Ambassador to India Igor Polikha, along with four other Ambassadors, ostensibly indicating his displeasure with the state of ties with India.

Since the beginning of Russia’s attack on Ukraine on February 24, the Modi government has refused to criticise Mr. Putin or back any resolution that condemns Russia’s actions, calling instead for a ceasefire and a return to direct talks between Russia and Ukraine. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken twice over the telephone to the Ukrainian President during the evacuation of Indian students from the country, their last conversation was in March this year. In contrast, Mr. Modi has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin on a number of occasions, including most recently on July 1, and attended the BRICS summit along with Mr. Putin virtually in July.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the SCO conference in Tashkent on as well, and tweeted on Saturday that his “conversation on the sidelines with FM Sergey Lavrov of Russia was useful”.

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