MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin called the statement by the West and Kiev that there were apparently Russian troops and instructors in eastern Ukraine “nonsense” during a live Q&A session with the public on Thursday.
“It’s all nonsense. There are no Russian units in eastern Ukraine, there are no Special Forces, there are no instructors. These are all local residents, and the best proof of this is that the people have literally removed their masks,” Putin said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier called on the United States and its allies to stop laying the blame for the unrest in Ukraine’s southeast at Russia’s doorstep. He rebuked accusations coming from US Secretary of State John Kerry and elsewhere that pointed to alleged “Moscow’s hand” in the ongoing pro-federalization rallies in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv.
Similar denials came from Russia’s Ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin and Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said Putin and Lavrov had repeatedly stressed that the fault for the protests was on the Ukrainian regime, which chose to turn a blind eye to the interests of its people in the Southeast.