MOSCOW, November 17 (Sputnik) – Moscow is concerned by the risk of ethnic cleansing in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday.
"We are very concerned that an idea of ethnic cleansing could arise there. We are afraid of Ukraine slipping into neo-Nazism,” the Russian leader said in an interview with German ARD broadcaster.
“It will be a disaster for Ukraine and Ukrainian people," he stressed.
A surreptitious support of Russophobic sentiments in Ukraine is very dangerous and could lead to a catastrophe, the president added.
“We are told again and again that pro-Russian separatists must do this and this, you must influence them in this way, you must act in that way. I always ask them: ‘What have you done to influence your clients in Kiev? What have you done? Do you only support some Russophobic sentiments?’ This is very dangerous, by the way. A catastrophe will happen if somebody surreptitiously supports Russophobia in Ukraine. It will be a catastrophe!” the Russian president stressed.
Kiev Should Stop Attacks, Launch Dialogue to Preserve Ukraine Integrity
"If the central authorities in Ukraine wants to establish not a demarcation line, which is currently very important to stop shelling and killings, but want to preserve the territorial integrity of the country, then it does not matter if it’s a particular village or a town, but it is important to stop the bloodshed, mutual attacks and create the conditions for a political dialogue. This is important. You have none of this — you have no political dialogue," the Russian leader said.
Kiev Made Mistake Sending Troops When East Ukraine Took Up Arms
"As soon as night arrests started in the south-east, people took up arms. Once they took up arms, [Kiev authorities] instead of stopping (authorities should be wiser after all) and starting a dialogue, sent the army, air forces, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems there. And everything ended in a deadlock," Putin said.
"Can one find a way out of this situation? Yes, I'm convinced there is a way," Putin added.
Russia to Prevent Kiev From Annihilating Political Opponents in East Ukraine
Moscow will not let the Kiev authorities to annihilate their political opponents in southeastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"Today there is fighting in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian central authorities have sent the armed forces there and they even use ballistic missiles."
"Does anybody speak about it? Not a single word. Does it mean that you want the Ukrainian government to annihilate everyone there, all political enemies and opponents? Is that what you want? We do not want it and will not let it happen," he added.
Russia Convinced Ukraine Militia to Conclude Minsk Agreements
Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that Moscow had convinced independence supporters of southeastern Ukraine to conclude Minsk agreements.
“Minsk agreements exist only because we, Russia, had plunged into work, worked with Donbas militia, and convinced them that they should go the length of certain agreements. If we did not do this, it [Minsk agreements] would not happen," the Russian leader said in an interview.
There are still some problems with the implementation of the Minsk agreements, Putin admitted.
"What are those problems? Indeed, self-defense forces, for example, were supposed to leave some of the towns they had surrounded, and yet they haven't done it," Putin said.
"Do you know why? I will tell you straight away, it is no secret: because the people fighting against the Ukrainian army think, 'These are our villages, we come from there. Our families and our loved ones live there. If we leave, nationalist battalions will come and kill everyone. You can kill us yourselves but we are not leaving',” the Russian leader said.
“You know, it is a difficult problem. Of course, we try to convince them, we talk, but when they say things like that, you know, there is not much that can be said in response."
The Kiev forces also have not left some of the settlements they were supposed to leave, Putin noted.
Russia Against Being Held Responsible for Ukrainian Crisis Settlement
"I always have a feeling that there are attempts to shift the responsibility on us and make us pay extra for something. We do not want it. Ukraine is an autonomous, independent, sovereign state," the president said.
It is always "annoying, disturbing" to hear that Russia has "special opportunities" to resolve crises, Putin added, referring to both Syria and Ukraine.
Ukraine Future Depends on Kiev Willingness to Respect Rights of All Citizens
The future of Ukraine depends on the willingness of Kiev authorities to respect rights of all citizens, underlined the Russian president.
“There's one thing missing: an understanding that to be successful, stable and grow, everyone needs to have a feeling that this is their land, their home no matter what language they speak — whether it's Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian or Polish," Putin told the German channel.
Russia has repeatedly pointed out that outbursts of aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism have become more common in Ukraine following February’s coup.
The conflict in Ukraine escalated in mid-April when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, who refused to recognize the new government which came to power as a result of the February coup.
In mid-April, Kiev authorities launched a military operation against independence supporters in eastern Ukraine, a predominantly Russian-speaking region. The conflicting sides reached a ceasefire agreement in September but have subsequently accused each other of violating the truce.
In September, the two sides reached a ceasefire agreement at a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk, attended by Russian representatives, but have since been accusing each other of violating the truce.