India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon on Thursday called Russia’s interests in Ukraine “legitimate,” even as the U.S., European Union and other western countries have criticized Russia’s involvement and are working on various forms of sanctions to force it to withdraw its troops from Crimea.
"There are legitimate Russian and other interests involved and we hope they are discussed and resolved," Menon reportedly said, and expressed concern about the safety of five thousand Indian nationals living in different parts of Ukraine, according to Times News Network. It was Menon's first statement about the Ukraine issue since protests began in November.
However, a statement released by India's Ministry of External Affairs, or MEA, Thursday said that India is concerned about the escalating tensions in the country. The statement, which did not mention Russia’s actions in Ukraine, said that India is monitoring the situation following the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych.
“We have been concerned at the subsequent escalation of tension, especially in view of the presence of more than 5000 Indian nationals, including about 4000 students, in different parts of Ukraine," the MEA said in the statement.
“It would be important, in this context, for a legitimate democratic process to find full expression through free and fair elections that provide for an inclusive society. India calls for sincere and sustained diplomatic efforts to ensure that issues between Ukraine and its neighboring countries are resolved through constructive dialogue,” the statement added, while noting the efforts of other countries to resolve the crisis.
The end of protests, followed by a formation of a new government in Kiev, led to pro-Russian forces taking control of the government in the Crimean peninsula. The U.S. and EU announced Friday that they will impose a three-step sanction against Russia, which has served as a hideout for Yanukovych, and reportedly sent military troops to Crimea on the deposed leader's request.
U.S. President Barack Obama has warned Moscow about continuing its presence in Crimea, which has a majority Russian-speaking population, and has repeatedly urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to move troops out of the region.