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War Of Words: Moscow, Kyiv Trade Diplomatic Barbs

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has sarcastically expressed "concern" about massive capital flight out of Russia.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has sarcastically expressed "concern" about massive capital flight out of Russia.
Kyiv is calling for independence referendums in Russia's regions. It is also pushing for Ukrainian to become Russia's second state language.

The two suggestions, which were made in official statements from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, appear to deliberately mimic -- and mock -- recent rhetoric coming out of Russia.

They are part of a bitter war of words between Moscow and Kyiv since Russia's annexation of Crimea, a war that has unleashed a barrage of tit-for-tat ranging from vitriolic, jeering, to downright bizarre.

Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, speaking at an investors conference in Kyiv on April 2, said that, "the Ukrainian-speaking community is the largest in Russia.

"It would be perfectly natural if Ukrainian became the second state language in Russia, or at least if it had special status. We've also asked Russian authorities to open Ukrainian schools," Yatsenyuk said.

Yatsenyuk's remarks seemed to ape Moscow's frequent calls for Russian to be made Ukraine's second state language. They came on the heels of a statement from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry putting forward the same proposals -- while acknowledging they would likely fall on deaf ears.

"Unfortunately, nothing has changed in Russia," the March 30 statement read. "Since those times when the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko wrote about it in his poem 'The Caucasus': 'From Moldavia to Finland, each, in his own language, holds his tongue.'"

In the same sarcastic vein, Yatsenyuk professed "concern" about massive capital flight out of Russia and Moscow's financial woes in the wake of Western sanctions.

"We are truly concerned about our Russian neighbors. We wish them the very best, we hope that they will be alright, that $65 billion per quarter won't flow out of their economy, and that their Mastercard and Visa credit cards will work," Yatsenyuk said.

Two other Ukrainian Foreign Ministry statements, both dated March 28, dismissed allegations that ethnic minorities are mistreated in Ukraine as "poisonous arguments" fabricated by Russian authorities "to compensate for their own warped view of reality."

'Mounting Fascism'

Ukraine's diplomatic outburst came in response to a press-release by the Russian Foreign Ministry lamenting what it called "the total ignoring of the interests of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine."

Russian diplomats also accused the country's new leadership of repressing ethnic Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, and other national minorities residing in Ukraine who, it charged, "seriously fear for their lives when they directly face atrocities by ultranationalists and neo-fascists."

The two sides have sparred at length over what Russia alleges is the all-pervading presence of ultranationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

On March 25, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry advised Moscow to stop "spreading useless propaganda" and tackle what it described as mounting "fascism, xenophobia, and ethnic discrimination in the Russian Federation."

A day later, it issued a tally of hate crimes perpetrated in Russia by regions and urged the international community to look into the violence.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was quick to react, dismissing what it called Ukraine's "irresponsible and unjustified statement" and accusing Kyiv of allowing ultra-right forces to "march openly in Ukrainian cities bearing fascist symbols, worship Bandera and other supporters of Nazism, and besmear monuments to Soviet warriors-liberators."

Russia has also taken issue with Ukraine's purported intention to hire foreign security contractors to maintain order in the country.

The move, it said, would breach Ukrainian law and displays "the inability of those who grabbed power in Kyiv to ensure even minimum order in the country and, probably, guarantee their own security."

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, in turn, angrily rejected the allegations as "one more lie spread by our Russian colleagues."

"We are getting used to it," it added.
RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service contributed to this report

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