Putin: What is Happening in Donbass Resembles Genocide
18:47 GMT 09.12.2021 (Updated: 19:48 GMT 09.12.2021)
Large swathes of eastern Ukraine were thrust into armed conflict in the spring of 2014 after Kiev sent troops to crush an independence push by local residents dissatisfied with the outcome of the February 2014 coup. The war has killed up to 31,000 people, with millions more fleeing their homes.
The situation in Donbass resembles a genocide, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.
"We can see clearly and know what is happening in the Donbass right now. This, of course, very much resembles a genocide, about which you have spoken," Putin said, speaking to Kirill Vyshinsky, a Ukrainian journalist, former director of Sputnik's sister agency RIA Novosti Ukraine, and executive director of the Rossiya Segodnya media group.
The Russian president made the comments Thursday at a meeting of the Russian council for the development of civil society and human rights, of which Vyshinsky is a member.
Putin suggested that Russophobia was the first step toward genocide, and stressed that "we need to act very carefully so as not to devalue the meaning of these concepts." Unfortunately, he said, the concepts should reflect the realities of events taking place on the ground. "Let's think about it," he urged.
The president's remarks come amid an atmosphere of tensions and fears of gathering clouds of war in Ukraine as Moscow, Kiev and Ukraine's Western benefactors accuse one another of preparing for military operations. In recent weeks, Washington and its allies have accused Moscow of concentrating troops at the border with Ukraine. Russia has denied the claims, while voicing concerns of its own that Kiev may soon attempt to resolve the frozen Donbass conflict by force using advanced anti-tank weapons and drones provided by the US and Turkey.
9 December 2021, 09:33 GMT
Residents of eastern Ukraine began demanding independence from Ukraine in the spring of 2014, following a Western-backed coup d'etat in Kiev in February of that year which brought ultranationalists and pro-EU politicians to power. Fearing that the autonomy demands could spread to other eastern regions, including Khakov, Nikolaev and Odessa, Kiev responded with military force, with Donbass militiamen taking up arms to fight federal forces and the region thrust into civil war.
The war in Donbass has led to the deaths of as many as 31,000 people, with over 2.5 million residents of the region forced to flee their homes, close to 1 million of them to neighbouring Russia.
A shaky ceasefire has been in force since February 2015 following the signing of the Minsk peace accords, which envisioned a ceasefire, followed by the pullback of heavy weapons and other measures to ease the situation. The accords also called for elections in the breakaway territories, and amendments to Ukraine's constitution guaranteeing the Donbass broad autonomy. The Petro Poroshenko government failed to live up to its commitments under the deal, and the hot war was turned into a frozen conflict punctuated by regular violations of the ceasefire.
After coming to power in 2019, President Volodymyr Zelensky initially expressed interest in the so-called 'Steinmeier formula', named after former German foreign minister and Minsk negotiator Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to proceed with plans to peacefully reintegrate the Donbass into Ukraine, again following elections and the creation of a special self-governing status for Donetsk and Lugansk. His endorsement of the idea sparked protests in Kiev by supporters of a hard line on Donbass, prompting him to relent, and the status quo continued unchanged for two more years.
Ukraine tensions began escalating in the spring of 2021, amid fears by the Donbass breakaways and Russia - a guarantor of the Minsk accords, that Kiev may try to resolve the conflict by force, and again this fall amid claims by Western officials and media that Russia is preparing to 'invade' all or part of Ukraine. Moscow has dismissed these allegations.
27 November 2021, 12:03 GMT