U.S. ambassador has poor grasp of history - Yakunin

BELGRADE -- Vladimir Yakunin says the U.S. ambassador to Serbia has demonstrated that he "does not know the history of the Soviet Union and WW2."

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

Yakunin, who heads the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation and is director of Russian Railways, is one of the Russian officials targeted by western sanctions. He spoke in Belgrade on Thursday.

His comments came after Ambassador Michael Kirby told a Belgrade daily that he was unsure why President Vladimir Putin planned to visit Belgrade, and that if the occasion was the anniversary of the WW2 Liberation of Belgrade, his remark was that "Belgrade was also liberated by the Third Ukrainian Army as part of the Red Army."

"He is not well acquainted with the history of the Soviet Union and of the Second world war," Yakunin remarked, and added:

"Perhaps someone will bring him some books... if he can read."

The Russian official went on to say that he already had doubts as to whether America's best high education institutions provided the country's political elite with "proper knowledge of history and politics."

"We saw on a number of occasions that Americans mix up parts of the world, continents, and who is in contact with whom," Yakunin told reporters at the end of an international conference dedicated to the First World War.

He added that he therefore "saw nothing strange" in Kirby's statement that Ukrainian soldiers allegedly liberated Belgrade.

Yakunin also commented on the USD 800 million loan that Russia has approved to Serbian Railways to say that "the Russian state gives loans and is working with Serbs, and Americans can take a break."

Right to invite

Michael Kirby on Thursday addressed his previous statement about Putin's planned visit to Serbia to say that he was not against the visit.

He told reporters his original comment did not represent pressure on Serbia to "choose between Moscow and the West."

"Serbia has the right to invite anyone, when it wants, I only wished to note that perhaps the historical context was somewhat skewed," he told reporters at the Supreme Court of Cassation in Belgrade.

According to him, Belgrade was liberated by "the Third Ukrainian army of the Soviet Union and soldiers from various Soviet republics took part."

"It's not about my disagreement with the visit of Mr. Putin, but that, if the purpose is to mark the liberation of Belgrade, everyone who took part should be thought of," he was quoted as saying.

Asked "whether it was more acceptable for Putin to arrive on some other day," the diplomat repeated that Serbia "has the right to invite whoever it wants, including President Putin on that day."