Monday, 16 July 2012
Ukraine Upset By Putin 'Rudeness' During Visit
KIEV, Ukraine -- The visit of President Vladimir Putin to Ukraine, aimed at tightening ties with Russia's neighbour, appeared to have the opposite effect Friday as leading figures castigated him for "rudeness" in showing up four hours late. Putin on Thursday held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych in the Crimean resort of Yalta, seen as an attempt to smooth out a dispute over Ukraine's gas imports from Russia. The Russian president arrived several hours behind schedule but rather than rushing to meet his host he instead went to greet a group of Russian bikers known as the "Night Wolves" whose events he has attended in the past. After talking with his biker friends -- who included a legendary Russian biker known as the "Surgeon" -- Putin finally headed to Yalta to meet Yanukovych. "President Putin exceeded the limits of a delay. He went to look at motorheads and their friends, showing his priorities" in Ukraine, Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloga wrote on his Facebook page. Adding that once Putin finally showed up he failed to offer Ukraine any concession in the gas dispute, Baloga said: "It is no longer interesting for Ukraine to hear this. Kremlin, please change the music." Former foreign minister Volodymyr Ogryzko fumed: "Instead of hurrying to the meeting he stopped to have a drink with the bikers. In my opinion this is a diplomatic slap or rudeness." Leading commentator Vitaly Portnikov said that the meeting with the bikers was aimed at humiliating Yanukovych and undermining Ukraine's independence. "What Putin allowed to happen is aimed ... at showing that Yanukovych is not a president but a simple governor (of a region) who will wait as long as he is told," he said in a commentary on the Lb.ua site. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov sought to downplay the affair. "President Putin, just as President Yanukovych, said themselves they were very happy" with their meeting, Peskov was quoted as saying by the Ria Novosti news agency. Putin's day did not end with the talks: according to footage posted on the lifenews.ru website he then went late at night night to the Crimea villa of former Ukrainian presidency chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk. The news site said Putin is the godfather of a daughter of Medvedchuk, who was a key figure at the presidency during the rule of Leonid Kuchma.