The Russian Embassy in Slovakia has sent a note verbale to Slovakia's Foreign Affairs Ministry in response to the op-ed written by State Secretary of the Defence Ministry Róbert Ondrejcsák (Most-Híd) concerning the fifth anniversary of the start of military conflict in Ukraine.
The piece, titled "Five Years since Crimea: The War in Europe is not taboo", was published in the Sme daily on February 26.
"Technically speaking, Russia carried out a military operation against Ukraine in February 2014, first on the Crimean peninsula. It invaded Crimea by using military force and subsequently annexed it," Ondrejcsák wrote.
The Russian Embassy in Slovakia responded in a way the Foreign Affairs Ministry does not consider to be part of a common diplomatic communication, according to Sme.
"The state secretary, using his own fabrications and opinions, describes Russia and Europe as 'enemies'," the Russian Embassy in Bratislava wrote in an open letter published on Facebook. "And this is really dangerous."
The embassy meanwhile asked Sme to publish a response to the op-ed. However, the daily turned down the request, saying that the text was "misleading and contained untrue claims".
"Moreover, it degraded to personal attacks, which are inappropriate of the diplomatic representation," said Beata Balogová, Sme's editor-in-chief.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed concern over the words used by the Russian Embassy, which "go beyond standard diplomatic communication". The ministry will also send a note verbal, as it informed in a statement.
While the Foreign Affairs Ministry backed Ondrejcsák, the Defence Ministry, led by Peter Gajdoš (SNS), has distanced itself from the text.
"The state secretary's statements express his personal and political opinions in the name of Most-Híd and are not the official statement of the Defence Ministry," Danka Capáková, the ministry's spokesperson, told Sme.
The op-ed on the conflict in Ukraine
"Firstly, in Russia's strategic documents, the West, NATO and the EU are enemies," Ondrejcsák wrote in his op-ed. "Secondly, in political statements, we are enemies. Thirdly, in Russia's military exercises, we are the main enemies and they train offensive operations against us."
The Russian Embassy labelled his opinion as "the incompetent assessment of Russia's politics", recommending the state secretary from the Defence Ministry "simply" read Russia's strategic documents.
Moreover, the embassy rejected Ondrejcsák's claims in the letter, adding that Russia is not involved in the conflict. Moreover, it went on to call "the annexation of Crimea" and "Russian aggression in Ukraine" typical propaganda clichés.
In fact, the UN condemned the annexation of Crimea in its resolution in March of 2014, which was embraced by 100 countries, while 11 voted against it and 58 abstained from the vote, Sme wrote.
"We think while such an officer is in the management of the Defence Ministry, the Slovak public cannot, indeed, feel safe," the Russian Embassy concluded its letter of protest.
Ondrejcsák responded on Facebook
After the embassy published its response on Facebook, Ondrejcsák wrote that Slovakia is a confident, free and democratic EU member state as well as a member state of NATO.
"I am the official representative of Slovakia, state secretary at the Defence Ministry of the Slovak Republic, not of the Russian Federation," he wrote. Therefore, he formulated his opinions in accordance with Slovakia's interests and statements in the published op-ed.
"Fortunately, we do not live in the times before 1989 when the Russian/Soviet Embassy dictated who could say, or write, what in Slovakia," Ondrejcsák claimed on Facebook.