KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused Ukraine’s acting foreign minister on Sunday of “going beyond the limits of decency” by calling President Vladimir Putin a “dickhead” during a violent protest outside its embassy in Kiev.
A senior member of Russian parliament called for Andriy Deshchytsia to resign and Moscow protested to Kiev about Saturday’s violence, during which cars were overturned, windows broken and a Russian flag ripped up.
Deshchytsia said he had gone to the rally to try to stop it turning violent but video footage on YouTube also showed him saying: “I am for you protesting. I am ready to be here with you and say ‘Russia, get out of Ukraine’.”
“Yes, Putin is a dickhead, yes,” he went on to say and the protesters responded by chanting the phrase.
The violence has increased tensions that were already high following the overthrow of a Moscow-leaning president in Kiev in February, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March and an uprising by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine since April.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone call with his French counterpart, “expressed outrage over the inaction of the Kiev authorities who allowed the rioting outside the Russian embassy,” the ministry said in a statement.
Lavrov also said a note had been sent complaining to Kiev about the protests and that he had protested to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The United States and the European Union condemned the violence.
Lavrov went on to criticise Deshchytsia, in comments to Russian reporters in Moscow in which he said the aim of the protest appeared to be to seize the embassy.
“I am particularly disturbed that the so-called protesters near the embassy were joined by Andriy Deshchytsia ... having allowed himself to make statements that go beyond the limits of decency,” Russia news agencies quoted him as saying.
“I understand who he has to learn from,” Lavrov said, in a reference to the United States, Ukraine’s ally. “Nevertheless a diplomat, as Deshchytsia is, has to choose his words ... I don’t know how he will talk to us and work with us now.”
Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian lower house of parliament’s international affairs committee, led calls in Moscow for Poroshenko to dismiss Deshchytsia. “Poroshenko should change his foreign minister. He doesn’t control himself very well,” Pushkov said on Twitter, and went on to suggest in televised comments that Moscow should halt all dialogue with Kiev and cut off gas supplies to Ukraine.
Deshchytsia, 48, was appointed in February on an interim basis because Ukraine at the time had an acting president who was not empowered to appoint him permanently.
He could be on the way out anyway because President Petro Poroshenko, who was sworn in on June 7, is expected to name a permanent foreign minister in the next few days.
Defending his actions, Deshchytsia, a career diplomat, told Moscow’s Ekho Moskvy radio he had urged the demonstrators they could protest peacefully but should not resort to violence.
Asked about his comment on Putin, he said: “I have told you what I want to say. You asked for my comments (on the rally), I’ve made my comments.”
Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Robin Pomeroy