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Ukraine bans Gorbachev for backing Crimea annexation

AFP , Thursday 26 May 2016
Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev (Photo: Reuters)
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Ukraine's security service said Thursday it had banned the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for backing Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Ukraine's National Security Service (SBU) said the 85-year-old who presided over the breakup of the Soviet Union was barred from entering the country for five years.

"For publicly backing the annexation of Crimea, Mikhail Gorbachev is banned from entering Ukraine for five years," the SBU said on Twitter.

SBU spokeswoman Olena Gitlyanska wrote on Facebook that Gorbachev had been barred "for state security reasons, particularly for his public backing of the military annexation of Crimea".

Russia formally annexed Crimea in March 2014 by a controversial referendum after sending special forces there to take over key institutions and military bases.

Gorbachev, once a harsh Kremlin critic who has turned into a moderate supporter of President Vladimir Putin, said on Sunday that he would have done the same in Crimea if he had been in a similar situation.

"I'm always with the free will of the people and most in Crimea wanted to be reunited with Russia," Gorbachev said in an interview with Britain's The Sunday Times.

Crimean residents overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in a referendum that has since only been recognised as legitimate by a handful of states such as Syria and North Korea.

The United States and the European Union condemned the move as a violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity and responded by unleashing sanctions against Russia.

Crimea's annexation was followed by a pro-Moscow separatist revolt in eastern Ukraine that has since killed more than 9,300 people and plunged Moscow's relations with the West to a post-Cold War low.

Earlier this week Gorbachev, who backed the annexation of Crimea from the start, said that he had no plans to visit, commenting on suggestions that he could face a travel ban.

"Very well. I don't go there and won't be going there," he told state news agency RIA Novosti.

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