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Putin advises Ukraine’s leadership to close offshore accounts before becoming 'European'

June 15, 13:50 UTC+3

Vladimir Putin describes Ukrainian radical nationalists as "swastika-brandishing loonies"

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© Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

MOSCOW, June 15. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has advised Ukraine’s leadership to close their offshore bank accounts at first before becoming Europeans.

"If someone wants to be a European, they should first close their bank accounts in offshore zones, and then speak about people’s welfare," Putin said during the annual televised question and answer session on Thursday.

The Russian leader commented on the greetings of Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko after an EU decision to approve visa-free travel for Ukrainians. Poroshenko quoted Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov’s poem "Farewell, unwashed Russia." Commenting on these words, Putin recalled that several years ago average wages in both Russia and Ukraine were around $500. By April 2017, in Russia this figure grew to $624, while in Ukraine it dropped to $251.

"At the same time, the gas price rose at least three-fold and even more for citizens. The cold and hot water prices grew some 200% and the pensions fell by 45%," the Russian leader said. "As for the sanitary aspect, if it carries on like this many people in Ukraine may face hygienic issues."

Putin noted that he could find many "bright and harsh" examples in Russian and Ukrainian literature as a response to Poroshenko. "I won’t do that due to the respect for the Ukrainian people and our common history," Putin added.

The Russian president also quoted the words of famous Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko: "Ukraine struggled on, fighting to the limit: she is crucified by those worse than Poles, her children."

"I hope at some time this period in the life and history of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people will come to an end," Putin said.

Vladimir Putin said that he highly values the standpoints of Ukrainians who recall the common history that unites Russia and Ukraine, replying to a Ukrainian caller’s question on "why Russian TV channels paint both Stepan Bandera’s followers and those who "honor the shared memory of their grandfathers and take part in the Immortal Regiment actions" with the same brush.

"Thank you very much for your position, for cherishing our common history," Putin told the Ukrainian caller. "We grasp it and we value it highly, believe me."

However, he did not agree that all Ukrainians "are painted with the same brush" in Russia. "We are trying not to show anyone in a bad light," the Russian president added.

Ukrainian nationalists

Putin describes Ukrainian radical nationalists as "swastika-brandishing loonies."

The fathers of the Ukrainian nationalism believed that Ukraine should be a federative state, Putin said. 

"We have many friends in Ukraine. You have just mentioned Viktor Medvedchuk. I first met him when he headed (Ukrainian President Leonid) Kuchma’s administration. Dmitry Medvedev, who was the head of the Russian Presidential Administration at the time, was his main partner, they still have good personal relations," Putin said. "Medvedchuk has his own views and beliefs. I think he is a Ukrainian nationalist though he doesn’t like to be called that, as he considers himself to be an enlightened patriot of Ukraine," the Russian leader added.

Putin pointed out that Medvedchuk’s father had been an activist of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), he had been convicted by a Soviet court and gone to prison in Siberia where Viktor Medvedchuk was born.

According to Putin, "his (Viktor Medvedchuk’s) views are based on the classic works of the Ukrainian nationalists who lived in the 19th century, as well as on later works by Grushevsky, Franko, Dragomanov, and so on, while there was Chernovol in the recent times," Putin said.

"They all believed that Ukraine should be independent but it also should be a federative state," the Russian president pointed out. "Moreover, one of them wrote that over-centralization, or, in his words, mechanical centralization, would lead to domestic conflicts in Ukraine, that is what we have been witnessing," Putin noted.

He also said that Medvedchuk advocated this point of view in public although some people in Ukraine were not happy about that. "By the way, some of the defenders of the Ukrainian independence and the Ukrainian nationalism did not see Crimea as part of Ukraine," Putin added. "But anyhow, they all stood for federalization, personal freedom and the democratic development of the Ukrainian state. This is what Mr. Medvedchuk believes in."

The Russian president noted that at the same time, Medvedchuk "seeks good relations with Russia, if not a union of some kind, but economic integration." "He says that it is unreasonable to destroy the advantages we have inherited - common infrastructure, energy system, common financial and technology opportunities and cooperation. He believes that economic cooperation is not only possible but also appropriate. He forms his ideas based on the interests of his people as he sees them," Putin said.

According to him, Medvedchuk is not the only Ukrainian who has such views. "We have just heard a Kiev resident saying that he participated in events related to our common memory (the Immortal Regiment march - TASS). People like Medvedchuk do the same, he also believes that we should value our common past," Putin said.

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