Washington, Mar 6 (PTI) : The US today slammed Russia for indulging in “false narrative” to justify its “illegal action” in Ukraine, issuing a point-by-point rebuttal of President Vladimir Putin’s statements on the crisis.
“As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since (Fyodor) Dostoyevsky wrote. The formula ‘two plus two equals five’ is not without its attractions,” the US State Department said in a fact sheet titled “President Putin’s Fiction: 10 False Claims about Ukraine”.
On Putin’s statement that Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets and it is “citizens’ defense groups” not Russian forces who have seized infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea, the State Department said there is strong evidence to suggest that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organised anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea.
“While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians,” the State Department said.
On Putin’s statement that the Russia’s actions fall within the scope of the 1997 Friendship Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, the US said the 1997 agreement requires Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which have given them operational control of Crimea, are in clear violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” it said.
Refuting Putin’s claim that the opposition failed to implement the February 21 agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the State Department said the agreement laid out a plan in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a constitutional system centered around its parliament.
“Under the terms of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion. Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption,” the State Department said.
“Pro-Russian” forces have reportedly taken de facto control of Crimea, an autonomous peninsula within Ukraine with a Russian ethnic majority, blocking Ukrainian troops in their barracks in the most serious stand-off between the West and Russia since the Cold War.
Meanwhile, the US has also reached out to the Chinese leadership to garner support on the unfolding developments in Ukraine.
“US National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke to Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi today about US?China relations and the events unfolding in Ukraine,” the White House said.
The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of bilateral relations and deepening practical cooperation to address regional and global challenges, it said in a statement.
“They also agreed that the US and China share an interest in supporting efforts to identify a peaceful resolution to the ongoing dispute between Russia and Ukraine that is based on respect for international law and upholds Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.
Reacting to Putin’s contention that “Ukraine’s government is illegitimate and Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine,” the State Department said that the Russian President himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political future”.
“After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes ? more than an 82 per cent majority,” it said.
The State Department also refuted Putin’s claim that “there is a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands are fleeing Ukraine to Russia and seeking asylum”, saying there is absolutely no evidence of a humanitarian crisis, nor is there evidence of a flood of asylum seekers fleeing Ukraine for Russia.
The State Department in its fact sheet refuted Putin’s claim that ethnic Russians are under threat.
“Outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat. The new Ukrainian government placed a priority on peace and reconciliation from the outset,” it said.
In its point-by-point rebuttal of Putin’s statements, the State Department said, “Russian military facilities were and remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases.”
The Russian President had earlier said that the Russian bases were under threat.
“It is Ukrainian bases in Crimea that are under threat from Russian military action,” the US said.
On Putin’s statement that there have been mass attacks on churches and synagogues in southern and eastern Ukraine, the State Department said religious leaders in the country and international religious freedom advocates active in Ukraine have said there have been no incidents of attacks on churches.
The US also refuted Putin’s statement that Kiev is trying to destabilise Crimea.
“Ukraine’s interim government has acted with restraint and sought dialogue. Russian troops, on the other hand, have moved beyond their bases to seize political objectives and infrastructure in Crimea,” it said.
“The government in Kiev immediately sent the former Chief of Defense to defuse the situation. Petro Poroshenko, the latest government emissary to pursue dialogue in Crimea, was prevented from entering the Crimean Rada,” it added.
Rejecting Putin’s contention that the “Rada is under the influence of extremists or terrorists”, the US said it is the most representative institution in Ukraine.
“Recent legislation has passed with large majorities, including from representatives of eastern Ukraine,” it said.
“Far right-wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada. There is no indication that the Ukrainian government would pursue discriminatory policies; on the contrary, they have publicly stated exactly the opposite,” the State Department said.