MOSCOW, April 4 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukraine’s interim authorities Friday of ignoring an independent probe into deadly sniper fire during protests in Kiev, while denying any alleged Russian link to the incident.
“We did not have and could not have had any relation to these crimes,” Lavrov said, adding that Ukraine’s authorities who seized power as a result of a coup in February have not sent any official requests to Moscow.
The sniper story and killings in Kiev have had a significant impact on the events in Ukraine this year. The opposition, which seized power as a result of a coup backed by the EU and US, implicated ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych and Ukraine’s elite riot police, the Berkut, in the crimes.
A taped phone conversation between Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet was leaked to the web in late February, in which Paet told Ashton that “Yanukovych was not the one behind the sniper attack, but rather someone from the new coalition.”
Acting Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced the results of an investigation Thursday laying the blame on Yanukovych for ordering snipers to open fire on the participants of anti-government clashes that left more than 100 dead. Ukraine’s police have also detained 13 members of the country’s Berkut special forces suspected of involvement in the sniper case.
In a symmetrical move, Russia detained 25 Ukrainians on Thursday, including three activists of the radical Right Sector movement, on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in the country.
Lavrov said Russia has “massive evidence” that contradicts the results of Ukraine’s investigation. He said Moscow has valid proof pointing to a group of Right Sector radicals possibly in charge of the sniper attacks.
On February 22, a regime change took place in Ukraine. The Ukrainian parliament ousted Yanukovych, changed the constitution and announced early presidential elections for May 25.
Russia has described the uprising in Kiev as an illegitimate fascist coup and a military seizure of power, which resulted in Moscow taking steps to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, including the reunification of Crimea.
Lavrov warned the West on Thursday against assuming a role of puppet master in Ukraine, while calling for constitutional reform in the country, a measure Moscow sees as necessary to protect minority populations against increased radical nationalism emanating from Kiev.