Putin: If There Was Any Possibility to Resolve Donbass Problem Peacefully, Russia Would Have Used It
11:13 GMT 09.05.2022 (Updated: 12:24 GMT 09.05.2022)
The Donbass, once serving as the industrial and coal-mining heartland of Ukraine, was thrust into years of bloodshed beginning in the spring of 2014, after Kiev sent troops to try to crush local resistance to the February 2014 Maidan coup.
Russia was not given any opportunity to resolve the conflict in Donbass peacefully, President Vladimir Putin has said.
"If there was even once chance to solve this problem by other, peaceful means, of course we would have taken it. But we were not left with such a chance, simply weren't given it", Putin said, speaking to Artyom Zhoga, whose son Vladimir, a Donetsk native and militia commander, was killed in fighting in March.
Putin said Russian troops taking part in the operation in Ukraine were "fighting courageously, heroically, professionally", and that "the result will be achieved - there is no doubt about this".
Vladimir Zhoga was the commander of the Sparta Battalion of the Donetsk People's Militia. He was killed on 5 March during heavy fighting for the town of Volnovakha, Donetsk People's Republic. He was 28 years old. Zhoga and his father joined the Sparta Battalion in 2014, citing the pro-Western, anti-constitutional coup in Kiev that took place in February of that year as their motivation.
The Russian president solemnly presented the elder Zhoga with his son's Hero of Russia medal, which Vladimir was posthumously awarded in March, and congratulated him on Victory Day. Zhoga assured Putin that Donetsk forces "will do everything required of us" to see the conflict through to a victorious conclusion.
Putin's comments Monday echoed remarks
he made on 24 February, the day Russia and its Donbass allies kicked off their military operation in Ukraine. During that speech, Putin said that in 1940 and 1941, before the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War (i.e. the Eastern Front of World War II), the USSR "went to great lengths to prevent war or at least delay its outbreak", and that this "attempt to appease the aggressor...proved to be a mistake which came at a high cost for our people...We will not make this mistake a second time. We have no right to do so", he said at the time.
Donbass was thrust into full-blown civil war in the spring of 2014, when the new authorities in Kiev sent troops to try to crush fledgling pro-independence movements in the region which sprung up in the wake of the Maidan coup. Over 13,000 people, including more than 3,300 civilians, were killed, with thousands more injured and more than two million displaced, in the years that followed.
pushing for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Donbass in the summer of 2014, and joined the Minsk and Minsk II peace accords in September 2014 and February 2015, respectively. In the years that followed, Moscow used its status as a guarantor to the agreements to try to push through a resolution to the crisis - in which Donbass would be reintegrated into Ukraine in exchange for broad autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk. Successive Ukrainian governments failed to create the conditions necessary for Minsk's implementation, and the conflict dragged on for years.
In early 2022, the conflict in Donbass, frozen by an unstable ceasefire, began to be reignited, with the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe reporting thousands of daily violations of the ceasefire regime in the form of artillery strikes, sniper shootings, and sabotage attacks, predominantly by the Ukrainian side in the first weeks of February. On 18 February, Donetsk and Lugansk authorities ordered civilians to begin evacuating their capitals. On 21 February, Russia recognised the self-proclaimed republics as sovereign and independent states. On 24 February, as shelling, sabotage, and sniper attacks continued, Putin announced a special operation in Ukraine, saying it was aimed at "demilitarising" and "de-Nazifying" the country.