Ukraine Wants Matovic to Apologise for Improper Joke about Zakarpattia

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Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine (TASR archive)

Kiev, March 3 (TASR) – The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday evening summoned Slovak charge d’affaires to Ukraine Matus Korba to protest against an improper statement made by Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic (OLaNO), who on a radio programme on Tuesday stated in a jocular manner that he’d promised Moscow the Zakarpattia region in exchange for supplies of the Sputnik V vaccine.

Zakarpattia is a region that belonged to Czechoslovakia before the Second World War. It became part of the Soviet Union after the war and has belonged to the independent Ukraine since 1991.

“Regardless of motives, genre or context, such remarks by the head of the Slovak Government, which directly allude to the territorial integrity of Ukraine, are categorically unacceptable and have a negative impact on the friendly and good-neighbourly atmosphere of Ukrainian-Slovak relations,” reads the ministry’s statement.

“[This] ‘joke’ sounds especially offensive to a Ukrainian people suffering from Russian aggression and a Russian occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as parts of the Ukrainian Donbas,” the ministry added.

The Ukrainian ministry went on to note that Matovic’s inappropriate comment “contradicts Slovakia’s consistent stance in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders”.

It asked the Slovak prime minister to issue an official apology for his remark. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Ambassador to Slovakia Yuri Mushka has handed a demarche to the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Matovic, when asked by an anchor of Radio Expres whether he had perhaps promised something to Russia in return for purchasing the vaccine, joked: “Zakarpattia”. Soon afterwards he added: “I didn’t promise anything … I was just attempting to secure a vaccine.”