Ukraine rejects Russia's proposed ambassador to Kiev

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine has rejected Russia’s proposed candidate for its next ambassador to Kiev, a senior Ukrainian foreign ministry official said.

Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov arrives to take part in peace talks in Minsk January 31, 2015. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Mikhail Zurabov, who was Moscow’s envoy in Kiev during anti-Russian street protests, Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its involvement in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, stepped down in July.

The Kremlin has proposed Mikhail Babich, who has held a number of senior official posts in Russia including with the FSB security service, but Ukrainian foreign ministry official Olena Zerkal said Kiev had decided not to consider the proposal.

“The way it was proposed, it has been removed from the agenda,” she said in a televised interview on channel 5 on Wednesday, without giving further detail on why the candidate was rejected.

“I think this will not have any sort of impact. What’s more, the role of the former ambassador in building normal relations was completely minimal,” she said.

In remarks to news agency Interfax Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the rejection was “not a question of the candidates or anything concrete, but about creating a positive dynamic in what’s happening within the context of Russian aggression.”

Ukraine replaced its own ambassador to Moscow with a temporary representative in 2014 following the collapse in relations between the former allies.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would continue to offer Babich as a potential ambassador to Ukraine.

“However, if the Ukrainian side takes a decision to lower the level of our diplomatic relations and considers this reduced mode of diplomatic relations to be appropriate - that’s the decision of the Ukrainian side,” he told journalists.

Kiev and NATO accuse Russia of supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons, fuelling a conflict that has killed over 9,400. The Kremlin denies involvement.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Richard Balmforth