Ukraine has summoned the Italian Ambassador to Ukraine Davide La Cecilia over a statement made by the Interior Minister of Italy Matteo Salvini (whose League political party is now the most popular in Italy) on his recognition of the annexation of Crimea by Russia and his slamming the 2014 Euromaidan protests and coup in Kiev as “pseudo-revolution” sponsored from abroad.
"We are responding. On Monday, we will meet with the Italian ambassador. He is a very nice person. I understand that he cannot be responsible for the words of their politicians, especially given that that one politician went to Crimea and just returned from Moscow, where, according to our information, he met with Putin," Olena Zerkal, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister, told the local Channel 5 on Friday."
Ukraine was infuriated by Salvini's comments made during his interview with the Washington Post, published earlier this week. WaPo senior associate editor Lally Weymouth tried to grill the minister over his support for Crimea’s return to Russia, calling the referendum that took place in Crimea in 2014 "fake."
Q. You said that Russia had a right to annex Crimea?
A. There was a referendum.
Q. It was a fake referendum.
A. [That is your] point of view. . . . There was a referendum, and 90 percent of the people voted for the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation.
Salvini shot back, saying "compare it to the fake revolution in Ukraine, which was a pseudo-revolution funded by foreign powers – similar to the Arab Spring revolutions" adding that "There are some historically Russian zones with Russian culture and traditions which legitimately belong to the Russian Federation."
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry angrily responded that Salvini words were "not grounded in real facts and in contradiction of recognized principles and norms of international law."
Zerkal also downplayed Salvini’s words on Friday by saying that "it was hard to expect any different rhetoric from him," following the "pro-Russian" Salvini’s recent visit to Crimea as an Italian lawmaker.
The tension goes back to the February 2014 "Maidan" revolution, when then-president Viktor Yanuvkoich was overthrown in a violent, US-assisted coup d'etat. Obama's Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, made numerous trips to Kiev to telegraph US support for the anti-Yanukovich protesters, and was even spotted handing treats to the demonstrators, boasted that Washington had invested $5 billion into the promotion of democracy in Ukraine. In the now infamous leaked recording in which the Asst. State Secretary said "Fuck the EU" over the Union's lack of support for the US strategy, Nuland was revealed as the mastermind behind the Ukraine unrest.
The new pro-Western government sent tanks to eastern Ukraine in spring 2014 where the population refused to recognize the coup, at which point Russian soldiers were dispatched to Crimea - a critical chokepoint for the US navy - which held a referendum that saw the local population vote overwhelmingly to join Russia.
In response, the US and the EU accused Russia of annexing Crimea and stoking the conflict in Donbass, as they slapped Moscow with several waves of sanctions targeting individuals, companies and whole sectors of economy. The animosity between the US State Department, if not so much the US president, and Ukraine continues to this day.
And while most of Europe had strictly adhered to the conventionally-accepted western narrative, the statement by Salvini indicates that as Europe is washed over by a populist wave, recent history is also being reassessed.