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25 Mar 2014 19:15 GMT | Politics, Europe, Russia, Ukraine
Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, has denounced a tape broadcast by Russian state television where she is heard urging the "wiping out" of Russians and President Vladimir Putin, calling it a montage.
Tymoshenko, who was released from jail after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovich, confirmed the authenticity of the phone call on Tuesday, but said the passage about Ukraine's eight million ethnic Russians had been manipulated, the AFP news agency reported.
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"One has to take up arms and go wipe out these damn 'katsaps' together with their leader," the female voice said in the leaked phone call posted on YouTube and broadcast extensively on Monday evenining on Russian television. The word "katsap" is a derogatory Ukrainian term for Russians.
During the conversation, Tymoshenko is said to discuss Russia's seizing of Ukraine's Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea with Ukrainian MP and former government official Nestor Shufrych.
"I am sorry that I am not able to be there and am not in charge of these processes, they wouldn't have had a f***ing chance of getting Crimea off me," she said in the leaked phone conversation.
"I would have found a way to finish off these b******s. I am hoping that I will use all my connections and will get the whole world to rise up so that not even scorched earth would be left of Russia," she added.
Tymoshenko did not deny talking about how she would handle the Crimea crisis and apologised for using foul language.
"In fact, I said: 'Russians in Ukraine are Ukrainians. Cheers to FSB," she said, referring to the Russian security service who she clearly believes were behind the bugging of the phone call.
Meanwhile, Ihor Tenyukh, Ukraine's acting defence minister, was dismissed on Tuesday over his handling of Russia's annexation of Crimea, after it emerged that less than a quarter of the soldiers on the peninsula planned to stay in the Ukrainian military.
Tenyukh, appointed a month ago under an interim government, offered his resignation in a speech to parliament following criticism of the way Ukraine pulled its military out of Crimea.
Politicians initially rejected the offer but after consultations between party faction leaders, parliament's speaker and acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchinov, the assembly voted to remove him.
Critics said Tenyukh should have been quicker to order the pullout from Crimea, which began on Monday, to better safeguard Ukrainian servicemen, many of whom were trapped in their bases surrounded by Russian soldiers and local militiamen.
Politicians elected Mykhailo Koval, head of the Ukrainian border guard, to replace Tenyukh.
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