Putin Says Kiev's Actions 'Killed' Minsk Agreements Long Before Recognition of LPR, DPR
Russia has recognised the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, pointing to Ukrainian authorities' failure to end the conflict in the east by adhering to the Minsk agreements that were signed in 2015 specifically for this purpose. President Vladimir Putin argued that Kiev chose to resolve the conflict via military means.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned Ukrainian authorities for effectively killing the Minsk agreements and stated that they had stopped existing long before Russia decided to recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR).
Putin went on to add that his decision to recognise the Donbass republics was dictated by Kiev's open admission that it was not going to honour the Minsk agreements. He noted that there was nothing to wait for except the "genocide" of the people in Donbass.
"Yes, of course, now the Minsk agreements do not exist. So why should we implement them if we have recognised the independence of [the DPR and LPR]", Putin said.
The president expressed regret over the demise of the Minsk agreements, stressing that Russia was "interested in implementing it".
Ukraine is One Step Away From Nuclear Weapons
The Russian president also addressed recent statements made by his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, who said that Kiev would consider revising its pledge under the Budapest Memorandum, which was signed in 1994 and guaranteed Ukraine's security in exchange for giving up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the USSR. Putin said he believes that this threat was addressed to Moscow and assured journalists that the message was heard.
"Since Soviet times, Ukraine has had fairly broad nuclear competencies. There are schools there. Everything is there to resolve this issue much quicker than in those countries that are solving these problems from scratch. The only thing they lack is a uranium enrichment system - an issue that is not difficult to resolve", Putin said.
Putin noted that if Ukraine obtains even tactical nuclear weapons, that would pose a strategic threat to Russia. He insisted that this should be kept in mind, but did not elaborate on what actions Moscow might take if such a scenario were to arise.
On Mending Ties With Ukraine
The president also expressed his opinion on what Kiev could do to mend its complicated ties with Moscow in the long run. According to Putin, apart from avoiding armed conflicts, Ukraine should also recognise the results of the May 2014 referendum in Crimea, during which the overwhelming majority of locals voted to join Russia. He added that Western countries should do the same.
"Why is this expression of people's will worse than what happened in Kosovo? It's not! It's just that in Kosovo the decision was made by the parliament, and [in Crimea] it was made via a national referendum. [...] No one was forced to vote at gunpoint there", Putin said.
He added that the best thing that could happen right now for all parties involved in the ongoing tensions would be for Ukraine to drop its ambitions to join NATO. Putin suggested that it would help Ukraine's Western partners to "save face" and would return Kiev to a non-aligned status. The latter was solidified in the country's constitution at its inception, but was violated by the new Ukrainian authorities that came to power after the West-backed coup in 2014. They voted to amend the constitution, embedding a provision that Ukraine must join NATO.
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