Ukraine’s ambassador to Armenia has returned to Yerevan more than two months after being recalled to Kiev in protest against a positive Armenian reaction to a disputed referendum in Crimea that led to its annexation by Russia.
Ukraine’s interim government ordered Ambassador Ivan Kukhta to return home for consultations on March 21 two days after President Serzh Sarkisian hailed the voted as a “yet another example of the realization of peoples’ right to self-determination through a free expression of will.” Sarkisian did so in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Warning of serious damage to bilateral relations, the Ukrainian government demanded that official Yerevan explain whether Sarkisian’s statement means its recognizes Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The Armenian side not only ignored the protest but also joined Russia and several other countries ostracized by the West in voting against a pro-Ukrainian resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on March 27. The non-binding resolution called the Crimean referendum illegal and reaffirmed Ukrainian sovereignty over the Black Sea peninsula.
It was not until May 29 that Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Karen Nazarian publicly stated that the Armenian vote, criticized by the United States, did not amount to a recognition of Crimea’s secession from Ukraine. He said Yerevan only voiced support for people’s self-determination championed by it in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenian officials commented more ambiguously on the issue in previous weeks.
Nazarian’s explanation came two days after Sarkisian congratulated the winner of Ukraine’s latest presidential election, billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko. In a letter to Poroshenko, he expressed confidence that the Ukrainian and Armenian governments will remain committed to deepening bilateral ties.
Russia has questioned the legitimacy of the Ukrainian election and declined to formally recognize its outcome so far.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) the day before Sarkisian’s congratulatory message, Kukhta said he expects to return to Yerevan “very soon.” An official at the Ukrainian Embassy in Armenia said on Wednesday that he rejoined the mission on Sunday.