Russia will hit back with a tit-for-tat reaction if Ukraine expels its ambassador, Russian news agencies reported Wednesday, after the envoy was summoned over what Kyiv called "unfriendly comments", AFP reported.
"If article nine of the Vienna Conventions...is applied in regard to the Russian ambassador, it will not stand without a corresponding reaction from the Russian side," a foreign ministry source told.
Relations between Russia and Ukraine are already strained by a squabble over gas transit in January that led Moscow to cut supplies and caused several European countries to be deprived of gas for two weeks.
The latest row appears to have been sparked over an interview Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin gave to a Russian newspaper last week.
"It is impossible to come to an agreement on anything with the Ukrainian leadership. If different people come in, we`ll see," Chernomyrdin told tabloid daily Komsomolskaya Pravda on Feb. 11.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko`s office has repeatedly protested that the deal agreed by his arch-rival Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was a sellout for Ukraine.
Chernomyrdin said that the leaders of the Ukrainian state are always "slamming one another. She signed what was needed for Ukraine and now he`s shooting holes in it: where`s the money?"
Ukraine`s foreign ministry said Tuesday it had summoned Chernomyrdin and warned him over what it called "unfriendly comments", without being specific about the incident.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ogryzko told Chernomyrdin he was displeased with "unfriendly comments" he made about Ukraine and its leaders, a ministry statement said.
The ministry said it could draw on rules governing diplomatic relations to declare Chernomyrdin "persona non grata" over the row, which could further destabilize Kyiv-Moscow relations.