Kyiv considered the option of severing diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, but that required handing over the protection of Ukrainian citizens to another state represented in Moscow.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Ambassador of Ukraine to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar said this on the air of the public broadcaster Dom TV channel.
Bodnar said that such a decision to severe diplomatic ties was considered in 2014 when the hostilities began between Ukraine and Russia, but no other state agreed to take over the functions of protecting Ukrainians in Russia.
Noting that there were millions of Ukrainians in Russia, the diplomat said that the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine increased the number.
"The activity of the Ukrainian embassy and consulates was needed to ensure the protection of their (citizens of Ukraine) interests," Bodnar said.
He explained that particularly in 2014-2015, when the armed hostilities and the capture of Ukrainian soldiers at the front were ongoing, the consulate in Rostov-on-Don and other Ukrainian institutions in Russia served 24/7 to help the citizens with treatment, contacts with relatives, etc.
No country agreed to represent Ukraine
"We assessed positions and none of the countries represented in Moscow agreed to represent our interests, given the amount of work that would need to be done to ensure the interests of our citizens," Vasyl Bodnar said.
He recalled that Georgia severed diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation after the 2008 war and currently its interests are represented by Switzerland. However, the deputy foreign minister added, the number of Georgian and Ukrainian citizens in Russia differs much.
Political prisoners need help
Bodnar stressed that Crimean political prisoners held in Russian prisons need help, including from diplomats. According to him, consuls provide Ukrainian citizens with documents and visit them in prisons.
"Several thousand Ukrainians are in prisons there, plus the Kremlin’s political hostages from Crimea. Consuls also represent our interests in the courts and other institutions. So this practical dimension overcame the emotional impulse to break off these relations," Vasyl Bodnar said.
No ambassador appointed
The Ukrainian diplomat also stressed that diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Russia are at a low level - there have been no ambassadors in either country since 2014. He said that currently, several dozen Ukrainian diplomats are working in Russia.