As the Russia-Ukraine war marks exactly 14 months today — the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022 — ministers from European Union nations have expressed their objection to a remark questioning the sovereignty of Ukraine and other former Soviet states by Lu Shaye, Ambassador of China to France.
Ministers from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia yesterday protested against the envoy’s remark. Today, they were joined by Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, who said that the remark was “totally unacceptable”. The same thing had been said by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who had added that the three Baltic nations, all former Soviet countries, would speak to their Chinese representatives and seek clarification on Beijing’s stand on the matter.
The Chinese envoy was asked, in a televised interview aired last Friday, about whether Crimea (captured by Russia in 2014) could be considered a part of Ukraine or not. He replied that historically, Crimea had been a part of Russia and that it had been “offered” to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev, former Soviet leader. (This was a factual reference to the development of 1954.)
Then, the Chinese envoy appeared to stir the hornet’s nest by saying that “these ex-USSR countries” had no actual status under international law, as there was no international agreement on their sovereign status. However, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of China put out a statement that Beijing respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
Ukraine ambassador to France hits back
Reacting to Lu’s TV remark, Vadym Omelchenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to France, said that there were “obvious problems” with how the Chinese envoy perceived geography.
France, which sees China as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, has also joined the chorus of objection to Lu’s remark. A spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of France said, “We stress [on] our full solidarity with all of our allies and partners concerned, who have gained their long-awaited independence after decades of oppression.”
Zelenskyy posts about stories of bravery
Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, who has been very active on social media from the start of the conflict, uploaded a video yesterday on his visit to the Donetsk region, where he interacted with soldiers and medical professionals for a long time. His post said that he thanked the “men and women who selflessly defend Ukraine”. He added: “Each of them has their own story of bravery. Every such story is a brick forming our victory.”
Though Ukraine is preparing for a counter-offensive against Russia, it is yet to be armed to the level necessary to launch an attack. Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked NATO allies for military equipment. Reports emerged today that six Leopard tanks had left Spain on Friday night to move towards Ukraine, making this the latest Western support for the smaller country in the conflict.
Also read: Russia-Ukraine war: West prepares for nuclear threat, cyber-attack from Putin
Drone attack repelled, says Russian governor of Crimea
Today, the Russian authorities said that they had repelled a drone attack on the Crimean port of Sevastopol. A social media post from Russian-installed governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said that the attack took place around 3.30am.
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, has already indicated that he would consider using nuclear weapons if the amassing of NATO military equipment continued near the Russian border. Russia has positioned tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, an ally nation that borders Ukraine.