A news host in Ireland grilled Russia’s ambassador to Ireland during a TV interview, at one point referring to him as an “apologist for slaughter” and pushing back against claims that it was “not [Russia’s] choice” to start a war against Ukraine.
RTE News’ David McCullagh spoke with Ambassador Yuriy Filatov on Friday. As the interview concluded, McCullagh asked the ambassador why Ireland should continue to allow Filatov to remain in Ireland, given this week’s events in Ukraine.
“Why should our government entertain your presence here when you’re acting as an apologist for slaughter?” McCullagh asked.
“Well that’s a good question,” Filatov replied. “You might ask your government. It’s up to them. I can leave any time.”
Earlier, the ambassador said that war has been going on in Ukraine’s Luhansk region for almost eight years, and claimed it was “waged by the Kyiv regime against the people of Donbas and Luhansk.”
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“I’m sorry, ambassador,” McCullagh responded, “but that war was started by Russia. It was fomented by Russia. It was continued by Russia. Russia has been arming the separatists in those areas you mentioned.”
“We did not,” Filatov answered.
The ambassador continued: “That has been started by the [Ukraine] government, which came to power in 2014 and to everybody, the only reason was that the people in the republics in the region, the thing they simply rejected – that they have not accepted – the new regime, which was all about Ukraine mutation. They wanted to keep their language, which is Russian, to speak it, to leave the room real life and just put it isn’t. They were victims of the old operation aimed to suppress them, suppressed them.”
‘Russian version of events’
McCullagh then accused the ambassador of presenting the “Russian version of events” and asked Filatov why RTE’s viewers should “believe the Russian version of events when Russia has been misleading us in recent weeks.”
The ambassador responded that he didn’t think the Russian government was misleading anyone.
McCullagh then pointed to a statement the ambassador had made just 10 days earlier, saying claims of a Russian invasion against Ukraine were ludicrous.
“We do not have any plans to invade anybody, least of all Ukraine,” Filatov said Feb. 16.
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“We do not have any political, economic, military or [any] other reason to do that. The whole idea is insane,” Filatov previously said.
‘Not our choice’
Filatov initially denied making the comments when they were brought up by McCullagh, but then said that the invasion was “not our choice.”
McCullagh wasn’t buying it.
“Your forces have invaded a sovereign nation. It absolutely was your choice,” the host said.
“Well, it was not our preferable choice,” Filatov replied. “If you are a little bit patient, you would listen through what they have to say. We tried all efforts to settle things politically through the Minsk process. They have failed. It all became clear that Kiev just did not want to sit in the forum of the Minsk agreements, let alone the benefit of the republics. They simply used this diplomacy as a cover to prepare an offensive for them.”
The “Minsk process” refers to a series of agreements that followed Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
McCullagh said there was “no proof” to support the ambassador’s claims.
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“There is no proof whatsoever. Are you expecting the world to believe that Kyiv waited until you had nearly 200,000 troops massed on its borders to launch an offensive. It is ludicrous to use your own words,” McCullagh said.
The interview took place during the second day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a “special military operation” in Ukraine early Thursday morning local time, saying “our confrontation with these [Ukrainian] forces is inevitable.”