Breaking News Bar
updated: 6/15/2014 8:47 PM

Putin is a what? Ukrainians delighted by slur, Russians not

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Energy Commissioner Guenter Oettinger, third left, talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, right, and his ministers at a round table discussion in the Ukrainian Cabinet in Kiev, Ukraine.

      Energy Commissioner Guenter Oettinger, third left, talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, right, and his ministers at a round table discussion in the Ukrainian Cabinet in Kiev, Ukraine.
    Associated Press

 
Washington Post

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainians have called Vladimir Putin many bad names, among them a Nazi, a dictator and just plain evil. But nothing has caused a firestorm quite like a Ukrainian diplomat's use of a schoolyard epithet to describe the Russian president during an unscripted moment Saturday night.

Russian lawmakers called Sunday for the dismissal of Ukraine's interim foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, after he tagged Putin with the swear word. Deshchytsia tossed out the insult breezily as he sought to calm protesters and halt an attack on the Russian Embassy in Kiev.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

He had waded into a near-riot as hundreds of people vented their rage at the loss of 49 Ukrainian service members earlier Saturday. Pro-Russian separatists, armed with weapons that many believe were supplied by Russia, shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane as it approached the airport in the eastern city of Luhansk, killing all aboard.

Every window in the three-story Russian Embassy was broken as protesters threw eggs, bricks, paintballs and car parts ripped off diplomatic vehicles.

Deshchytsia pleaded for them to halt the violence. He noted that Ukraine has an obligation to defend embassies and stressed that he was not asking the crowd to stop protesting, but to be peaceful.

"I am ready to be here with you and say, 'Russia, get out of Ukraine,' " he said.

Then he spoke the words that would cause an international incident: "Putin is a d---head, yes."

The remark drew cheers from protesters within earshot and prompted many of them to chant along. A video of the remark was quickly posted to YouTube.

To be sure, Deshchytsia was showing a familiarity with Ukrainian pop culture.

The phrase originated with rival soccer teams, which in March paraded through the eastern city of Kharkiv chanting the phrase in a singsong voice, with the refrain "La la la la la la la la la." It took off and soon became a staple at soccer games and protests. Ukrainian tourists have taken videos of themselves singing the words, often with embarrassed giggles, while on vacations abroad -- at a sake bar in Japan, accompanied by a mariachi band in Los Angeles, sitting in the bleachers at a World Cup game in Brazil.

Even some of the funeral wreaths left on the Russian Embassy's steps Sunday were adorned with ribbons emblazoned with the phrase.

Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, rushed to Deshchytsia's defense on Twitter, praising him "for seeking to defuse a dangerous situation. A skilled diplomat and credit to #Ukraine."

Deshchytsia, sounding not the least bit chagrined, told the radio station Ekho Moskvy -- or Echo of Moscow -- that he had been acting in an "emergency situation" in which "the main thing was to restrain the people."

Nevertheless, Moscow was not amused.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced his displeasure in conversations with the foreign ministers of Germany and France.

Speaking Sunday by telephone to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Lavrov "expressed indignation at the inaction of the Kiev authorities, who allowed an outrageous act in front of the Russian Embassy in the Ukrainian capital," the ministry said in a statement.

Leonid Slutsky, a leader in the Russian parliament, said Deshchytsia had violated international agreements on diplomatic conduct.

"When Ukraine's chief diplomat pours obscenities on the Russian president, in the context of an illegal action that is essentially an aggressive attack on the Russian Embassy ... this is the apotheosis of what I would call anti-diplomacy," Slutsky told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Alexei Pushkov, head of the international affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said that in retaliation for the slur, Moscow should stop supplying Ukraine with natural gas.

Last-ditch talks on the gas supply appeared to be heading nowhere even before the incident. The talks have deadlocked over pricing, and Russian state-controlled Gazprom has said it will cut off supplies if it does not receive a $1.9 billion payment Monday toward Ukraine's gas debt.

Because the demand for natural gas is far lower in the summer than in the winter, a cutoff would probably not cause immediate pain in Ukraine or Europe, which gets 15 percent of its gas from Russia via pipelines running through Ukraine. But if a cutoff dragged on, winter supplies could be jeopardized because no gas would be flowing into crucial Ukrainian storage tanks.

Share this page
  • This article filed under:
  • News
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here