Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to France, said that former Soviet countries have no ‘effective status’ in international law.
The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are demanding an explanation from Beijing after China’s top envoy to France questioned the independence of former Soviet countries like Ukraine.
Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to France, said in an interview on Friday with French television network LCI that former Soviet countries have no “effective status” in international law.
Asked whether Crimea belongs to Ukraine, Lu said that “it depends how you perceive the problem,” arguing that it was historically part of Russia and offered to Ukraine by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
“In international law, even these ex-Soviet Union countries do not have the status, the effective [status] in international law, because there is no international agreement to materialize their status as a sovereign country,” he said.
The comments sparked outrage among Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia — three former Soviet countries.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said in a tweet that his ministry summoned “the authorized chargé d’affaires of the Chinese embassy in Riga on Monday to provide explanations. This step is coordinated with Lithuania and Estonia.”
He called the comments “completely unacceptable,” adding: “We expect explanation from the Chinese side and complete retraction of this statement.”
Margus Tsahkna, Estonia’s foreign minister, called the comments “false” and “a misinterpretation of history.”
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, shared the interview on Twitter with the comment: “If anyone is still wondering why the Baltic States don’t trust China to ‘broker peace in Ukraine,’ here’s a Chinese ambassador arguing that Crimea is Russian and our countries’ borders have no legal basis.”
Kyiv also pushed back strongly against the ambassador’s comments.
“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, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said in a tweet on Sunday. “If you want to be a major political player, do not parrot the propaganda of Russian outsiders.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the remarks “unacceptable” in a tweet on Sunday. “The EU can only suppose these declarations do not represent China’s official policy,” Borrell said.
France in a statement on Sunday stated its “full solidarity” with all the allied countries affected, which it said had acquired their independence “after decades of oppression,” according to Reuters. “On Ukraine specifically, it was internationally recognized within borders including Crimea in 1991 by the entire international community, including China,” a foreign ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The foreign ministry spokesperson also called on China to clarify whether the ambassador’s statement reflects its position or not.
The row comes ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, where relations with China are on the agenda.