There was a negative reaction in Ukraine to the opinion which German Ambassador to Ukraine Ernst Reichel expressed in an interview with RBC-Ukraine, saying that elections could take place in the parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts not controlled by Ukraine even with the Russian army present there. This coincided with the reception at the embassy in celebration of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Ukraine. During the reception, with journalists present, the ambassador explained his position to MP Serhiy Leshchenko. According to the ambassador, in an interview with RBC, he spoke about creating the necessary conditions for holding elections in the Donbas.
After Reichel’s interview with RBC-Ukraine, the parliamentary factions BPP (Petro Poroshenko Bloc) and People’s Front demanded that the German ambassador explain his statements regarding the Donbas. They called for a boycott of the reception at the embassy marking the anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Ukraine.
“On behalf of the Committee on Issues of European Integration, the Committee of Foreign Affairs and the entire Ukrainian parliament, we would like to express our outrage at the statements of German Ambassador Ernst Reichel, who said that elections can be held even with Russian forces present,” said MP Hanna Hopko. She noted that such a statement by the ambassador goes against the official position of Germany and the efforts of Chancellor Angela Merkel to resolve the conflict in the Donbas, as well as the Minsk agreements. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must immediately on call the German ambassador in order to hear his retraction of such a statement, and Minister Klimkin must report to parliament on the results of the discussion with the ambassador,” declared the MP.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin subsequently reacted by writing the following on his Twitter account:
“Two electoral farces at Russian gunpoint resulted in two occupation authorities in the occupied Crimea and the Donbas. Enough farces!”
Later the German ambassador was invited to Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to give an explanation for his remarks in the RBC-Ukraine interview. The ministry’s press service reported that at the ministry, Ernst Reichel was told that holding elections in the occupied territories of the Donbas in the presence of Russian occupation forces would be unacceptable. During the meeting, Ukraine’s position was reportedly reaffirmed clearly and consistently, that such elections must be held only after the withdrawal of Russian armed forces from Ukraine, and also after safe conditions have been created to make it possible for free and democratic elections to be held in the Donbas, in compliance with the standards of OSCE and Ukrainian legislation.
“Ukraine highly appreciates Berlin’s efforts, including the Normandy format, to restore peace in the Donbas and end Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the press service reported. After the scandal, the German Embassy in Ukraine repealed the statement of Ambassador Ernst Reichel to the press, which supposedly took place before the start of the ceremonial reception to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the diplomatic mission to Ukraine.
Reichel had stated on several previous occasions that elections in the Donbas could take place under certain conditions before Ukrainian control is established over the occupied territories. In particular, he spoke about this during his visit to Kharkiv on the 14th of December 2016, and in an interview with Radio Svoboda from the 31st of December 2016.