Russia hits back at German chancellor

Russia hits back at German chancellor

Scholz had dismissed Moscow’s claims that bloodshed in eastern Ukraine is genocide

Moscow has hit back at the German Chancellor, accusing him of making fun of issues around a potential genocide.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow was responding to remarks made by Olaf Scholz at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, where he appeared to dismiss claims that thousands of Ukrainian civilians may have been targeted in the bloody conflict in the country’s east. 

Scholz hit out at a statement made earlier this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin following a summit between the two leaders, in which he said the events that have unfolded in the region amount to “genocide.”

According to Berlin’s leader, the assertion is absurd and “Putin is coming to argue that in Donbass there is something like genocide, which is really ridiculous, to be very clear on that.”

Later on Saturday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry hit back at Scholz’s claims, insisting that “it is not the place for German leaders to make fun of issues surrounding genocide.”

“This is unacceptable given Germany’s historical experience of committing atrocities and the spread of misanthropic ideology,” the department said in a statement to TASS.

The remarks come amid a worsening standoff on the Russian-Ukrainian border, with Kiev and the leaders from the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk accusing each other of aggression. Heavy shelling and explosions were reported on Thursday on the contact line in the Donbass region and thousands of citizens are said to have been evacuated to Russia amid growing hostilities.

Fierce fighting has sporadically broken out in eastern Ukraine since 2014, following the events of the Maidan, when violent street protests toppled the elected government. The two regions subsequently declared their autonomy from Kiev, but neither Ukraine nor Russia recognize their independence.

Officials in Kiev claim that the Donbass rebels are Russian proxies, which the Kremlin has repeatedly denied, and have criticized Moscow’s issuing of over half-a-million passports to citizens living in the territories. According to a 2001 census, ethnic Russians form the largest minorities of the two republics and it is a predominantly Russophone region.

In December last year, Putin claimed that what is going on in the Donbass is “very reminiscent” of targeting civilians while speaking at a session of Russia’s Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. He also insisted that “Russophobia” is the first step on the road to genocide. More than 13,000 people, including children and elderly civilians, have been killed in the conflict, according to UN estimates.

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