June 1, 2023

United Nations – A bawdy fistfight and slap-fest erupted between delegates from Ukraine and Russia in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday in the corridors of talks on Black Sea cooperation. Video of the scuffle was posted on the Facebook page of the Ukrainian delegate, Oleksandr Marikovski, involved in the melee.  

“Paws off our flag, paws off Ukraine…,” Marikovski says in his post after the confrontation.

The incident took place in the lobby when the Russian delegate’s secretary, Valery Stavitskiy, snatched away a Ukraine flag that was being held up for a photo op, and Marikovski grabbed it back, punching and slapping the Russian in the process.

Russia’s news agency TASS reported that the consul and a doctor came to the hotel to attend to Stavitsky after the incident. 

The video was authenticated by Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya, who spoke to CBS News on Friday, asking if Americans or any nation would put up with the taking down of their flag.

Russia’s U.N. first Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy confirmed the video as well, and told CBS News “it was an apex of the whole day” of what he called Ukrainian provocations during the meeting.

Earlier, members of Ukraine’s parliament hung a Ukraine flag at their table before Turkey’s parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop nixed it and later condemned some of the Ukrainian delegates’ “provocative and physically offensive actions.” 

Both the Ukrainian and Russian U.N. Ambassadors made clear that the meeting where the fight took place was not at the talks in Istanbul, Turkey, also taking place on Friday, where the U.N., Turkey, Ukraine and Russia are meeting to try to salvage the grain deal that is up for renewal on May 18.

The scuffles come as the top United Nations trade representative, Rebeca Grynspan, arrived in Moscow to assuage Russia on its complaints about the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the U.N. confirmed to CBS News on Friday morning.

On the grain deal, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent letters to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week to propose an “expansion” and “improvement” of the deal, but has not heard back on the proposal.

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