Ukrainian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Kukhta

KIEV (RFE/RL) — Ukraine recalled its ambassador to Armenia on Friday after warning of serious damage to bilateral ties and demanding an official Armenian explanation regarding President Serzh Sarkisian’s acceptance of a disputed referendum in Crimea that led to its annexation by Russia.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Ambassador Ivan Kukhta was ordered to return home for consultations.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danilo Lubkivsky announced earlier in the day that the Armenian ambassador in Kiev, Andranik Manukian, has been twice summoned to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister and handed an official note.

“We appealed to Armenia to officially and publicly state that it does not recognize the annexation of Crimea,” Ukrainian news agencies quoted him as saying. “We expect such a response.”

“In case of statements or actions that we could interpret as unfriendly, there will be negative consequences for our bilateral relations,” Lubkivsky warned, according to the RBK-Ukraine news agency. He did not specify those consequences, saying only that the Ukrainian side will consider taking “a broad range of measures” against Yerevan.

Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) to comment on the development, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said, “As soon as we receive the Ukrainian side’s note, we will formulate our response and decide whether or not we will publicize that response.”

The Ukrainian protest stems from President Serzh Sarkisian’s remarks made during Wednesday’s phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Sarkisian was cited by his press office as saying that the weekend referendum on Crimea’s secession from Ukraine, condemned as illegal by the international community, was “yet another example of the realization of peoples’ right to self-determination through a free expression of will.”

The United States on Thursday criticized Sarkisian’s remarks on Crimea, with John Heffern, the U.S. Ambassador in Yerevan, calling them “very unfortunate.” There has been no reaction yet from the European Union. Both the U.S. and the EU have imposed sanctions on top Russian officials and members of Putin’s inner circle in retaliation for the Black Sea region’s annexation.

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