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Germany Slams Ukrainian Lawmaker For Defacing Berlin Wall Remnant

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko on a visit to Moscow in March 2015, where he took part in a parade to honor slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

A Ukrainian lawmaker who admitted he defaced a remnant of the Berlin Wall on the grounds of the German Embassy in Kyiv has drawn a rebuke from Berlin.

Oleksiy Honcharenko, a member of President Petro Poroshenko's party, said his act of vandalism was a protest over comments from the German ambassador about potential elections in parts of eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed separatists.

Honcharenko sprayed "Nein" -- German for "No" -- in red paint on a fragment of the Berlin Wall on February 8.

The lawmaker, who enjoys immunity from prosecution, posted images on Facebook and wrote that the wall was a "clear symbol of recent Russian occupation of Europe."

The German ambassador, Ernst Reichel, faced criticism in Ukraine after he said in an interview that that the separatist-held areas in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions might not have to be entirely free of Russian soldiers in order for elections to be held.

Elections and the withdrawal of all "foreign armed formations" and mercenaries are among the steps required under a deal known as Minsk 2, which was meant to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine and resolve the conflict between Kyiv and the Russia-backed separatists.

The timing and details of those steps are among the sticking points in negotiations to end the war, which has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014.

Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the conflict, despite large amounts of evidence that it stirred up separatism in eastern Ukraine early in 2014 and has sent military forces and weapons into Ukraine to fight against government forces.

Some Ukrainian lawmakers called on Berlin to replace Reichel in the wake of his remarks, but Germany has stood behind him.

'Wholly Inappropriate Behavior'

On the incident of vandalism, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said employees at the Kyiv embassy tried to stop Honcharenko from spray-painting the wall relic but were thwarted when he claimed legislative immunity.

Schaefer called the lawmaker's actions "wholly inappropriate behavior."

Schaefer said that Germany considers Ukraine a "close partner" and was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Kyiv as the country gained independence in the collapse of the Soviet Union 25 years ago.

He said that Germany, which along with France is sponsoring negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, is working to host another negotiating session next week.

With reporting by AP, Radio Svoboda, and dpa
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