A popular Russian daily said on Wednesday, citing a Foreign Ministry source, that Moscow could soon recall Chernomyrdin, ambassador in the ex-Soviet state for the past seven years, due to his failure to promote Russian policies.
"We have no information on the matter, either official or unofficial. We do not know who is spreading this information," an embassy official, Vsevolod Loskutov, said.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted analysts in both Russia and Ukraine as saying that Chernomyrdin's possible departure was due to, among other things, his failure to ensure that celebrations for the 125th anniversary of Russia's Black Sea Fleet went ahead last weekend. Ukrainian authorities banned a Russian parade in Sevastopol, the fleet's main base.
Chernomyrdin, Russia's second premier in 1992-1998 and the CEO of gas monopoly Gazprom in 1998, was appointed envoy to Ukraine in 2001 by then-president Vladimir Putin. Some analysts suggested the appointment was designed to distance him from the mainstream political scene. As Russian premier, he oversaw the financial crisis of 1998, saying in its aftermath the words which have since become a popular Russian aphorism, "We hoped for a little better, but things turned out like they always do."
While serving as ambassador, Chernomyrdin has rejected the labeling of the Soviet-era Holodomor famine in Ukraine as genocide, for which he was harshly criticized by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, the newspaper said.
Earlier this month, Kiev appointed an ex-foreign minister and former ambassador to Belgium and the U.S., Konstyantyn Hryshchenko, as its new envoy to Russia. Hryshchenko, who served in the pro-Russian government of former premier Viktor Yanukovych, pledged to improve Russia-Ukrainian relations.
Ties between Russia and Ukraine have deteriorated in recent years over energy supplies, Ukraine's bid to join NATO, and plans to oust the Russian naval base.