France, Ukraine and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania expressed dismay after China’s ambassador in Paris questioned the sovereignty of former Soviet countries like Ukraine.
Asked about his position on whether Crimea is part of Ukraine or not, Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye said in an interview aired on French television on Friday that historically it was part of Russia and had been offered to Ukraine by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
“These ex-USSR countries don’t have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to materialize their sovereign status,” Shaye added.
France responded on Sunday by stating its “full solidarity” with all the allied countries affected, which it said had acquired their independence “after decades of oppression”.
“On Ukraine specifically, it was internationally recognized within borders including Crimea in 1991 by the entire international community, including China,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that China will have to clarify whether these comments reflect its position or not.
The three Baltic states and Ukraine, all formerly part of the Soviet Union, reacted along the same lines as France.
“It is strange to hear an absurd version of the ‘history of Crimea’ from a representative of a country that is scrupulous about its thousand-year history,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian presidential aide, wrote on Twitter.
“If you want to be a major political player, do not parrot the propaganda of Russian outsiders.”
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.