Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed Vitold Fokin from the post of First Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian delegation to the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) on Donbas following the latter's controversial statements on Donbas.
The relevant decree was signed on September 30, as reported on the president's website.
"To remove V. Fokin from the Ukrainian delegation to participate in the Trilateral Contact Group, relieving him of his duties as the first deputy chairman of the delegation," the document says.
Read alsoNSDC chief on Ukrainian negotiators' notorious statements: "Own opinions"The decree comes into force on the day of its publication.
Fokin's controversial statement: Reactions
Vitold Fokin has claimed he "does not see" a war ongoing between Ukraine and Russia in Donbas; he believes that mercenaries from 30 countries have been fighting against the Ukrainian Army in the east of Ukraine, and he is convinced a comprehensive pardon is required for those who committed crimes in Donbas.
All the members of the Parliament Committee who heard Fokin speaking at the Q&A, except those from the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life Party, backed a motion asking President Volodymyr Zelensky to recall Fokin from the Ukrainian delegation at Minsk talks.
The official position of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group was announced by Head of the delegation, Leonid Kravchuk, his First Deputy Oleksiy Reznikov, and Deputy Oleksandr Merezhko, in a joint statement: "Mr. Fokin, like any person, has the right to his own position, no matter how strange it may seem. But being part of the Ukrainian delegation at the negotiations with the TCG, we must adhere exclusively to the official position of our state, even when we do not participate in the negotiations."
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, in turn, posted an emotionally charged response in which he criticized Fokin's statement. "[Mr.] Fokin, thousands of our soldiers and civilians were killed in the war, which, as you claim, does not exist. Tell that to the families of those who died from Russia's multiple rocket launchers near Saur-Mohyla and Ilovaisk!? .. You scoundrel. 'They aren't there' – these are the words of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, rather than those of a representative of Ukraine," the minister said.
Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) Serhiy Kryvonos dubbed Fokin a 'senile, blind fool.'
Head of the Ukrainian President's Office Andriy Yermak said Fokin must resign over his controversial statements.
The President's Office said they were "struck by personal assessments and comments" by Fokin on the war in Donbas and Crimea.
In response to a wave of public outrage, Fokin defied criticism, saying MPs were "unwilling to figure things out" and that he felt his "phrases would be taken out of context," Vesti reported.