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Russia not against US joining Normandy Four talks on Ukraine

December 14, 2017, 14:49 UTC+3

Vladimir Putin comments on the Ukrainian settlement

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© Konstantin Cherginsky/TASS

MOSCOW, December 14. /TASS/. The United States takes a full part in solving the Ukraine crisis irrespective of the Normandy Four format and Moscow does not oppose the idea of the US’ joining the group, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his annual news conference on Thursday.

"In fact, the United States takes a full part in the settlement process regardless of whether it is within the Normandy Four format or not," Putin said. "All the same, the United States is deeply involved in and is aware of all the developments there. Should it be formally included in the Normandy Four format? I do not know. In any case, it does not depend on us. I have never opposed the idea."

Minsk peace deal

The Minsk format for settlement of the situation in Ukraine is of low effectiveness due to Kiev's unproductive position, Putin said. 

"As for the Minsk format and its effectiveness. The effectiveness is low due to the uninstructive position of Kiev's incumbent power," he said. "There is no desire [in Kiev] to fulfil the agreements and to begin a realistic political process, which should bring to implementation of the agreement on Donbass’ special status, which has been fixed in a respective Ukrainian law, which the Verkhovna Rada has adopted, but which still has not entered force under various reasons."

"This agreement has been reached, and parameters of that law are well known," Putin said.

"The Slavic world’s development was a difficult process. Russia itself was made of many Slavic tribes," the president said. "In the end, Rus was established, and Kiev was its part and center. In this sense, our historical, religious and other roots allow me to say that we are basically one people."

The Russian leader stressed that the Soviet authorities’ decision to transfer Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 "came in violation of legislation at that time." But the people of Crimea made their choice at the referendum in March 2014 to rejoin Russia.

Putin also noted that some people think that it is better for Ukraine to develop as an independent state, "and let it be so." "If people believe so, this needs to be done, it is absolutely senseless and counterproductive to challenge this opinion," he stressed.

"But I want you to pay attention that the whole world is choosing another path," the president said.

"People of different nationalities, confessions and ethnic groups unite closer to each other. This is happening so in Europe and Asia, and in North America," Putin said. "We should come to understanding what is beneficial for Ukraine and Russia and what is counterproductive. Let’s think about this together," he said.

Control over Donbass

Moscow is not against establishing international control over Donbass, but Kiev needs to agree on this directly with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Putin said. 

"In fact, it all comes to the same thing - bringing this territory under international control," Putin said. "We are not against this, but for that the Kiev authorities need to agree with Donbass."

"Such conflicts in the world have never been solved only through mediators. Everywhere, they were solved through direct contacts between the conflicting parties. Unfortunately, the Kiev authorities are avoiding these direct contacts."

 Only local defense units and not the Russian army are operating in the Donbass area and are capable of repelling military actions, he said. 

"There is no Russian army in the Donbass area. Certain local militia formations have been set up there and they are self-sufficient and ready to repel any large-scale military actions against Donbass," the Russian president noted.

"We believe that this corresponds to the interests of those people who are living on that territory. This is because if they do not have such a possibility, then a massacre worse than in Srebrenica will be carried out by the so-called nationalist battalions," Putin said.

Putin noted that Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko had called to arm members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission.

"I immediately agreed and the OSCE rejected this idea. They said they don’t have this experience and manpower and they don’t want to give weapons to the staff members as they will immediately become the targets for radicals from both sides," Putin said. "Later, Poroshenko said the OSCE members’ security should be ensured with the help of UN forces. And I agreed with this."

"To avoid doubts that we agree with this, we submitted a draft resolution that there should be UN forces that will protect the OSCE mission," the Russian president said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel later suggested that the OSCE mission should be under protection not only on the contact line but also on the Russian-Ukrainian border. "I thought and said: Yes, you are right. We immediately amended our resolution. Now it turns out that this is not enough either," Putin said.

 Only local defense units and not the Russian army are operating in the Donbass area and are capable of repelling military actions, Putin said. 

"With regard to the tragedy happening there, we always need to look at the primary source," the Russian leader said.

"The state coup d’etat, the armed unconstitutional seizure of power is the primary source. As is known, a part of the Ukrainian people did not agree with this and began to oppose this … despite Ukraine’s alleged aspiration for the European civilization," Putin stressed.

The pro-Kiev forces started to struggle against this dissenting part of the people, using special services and then the armed forces rather than democratic means, the Russian leader said.

Putin reiterated that there was no Russian army in east Ukraine.

"Indeed, certain local militia formations have been set up there and they are self-sufficient and ready to repel any large-scale military actions against Donbass," the Russian president noted.

"We believe that this corresponds to the interests of those people who are living on that territory. This is because if they do not have such a possibility, then a massacre worse than in Srebrenica will be carried out by the so-called nationalist battalions," Putin said.

"They [the Ukrainian nationalist battalions] won’t be stopped by anything, including an appeal to international human rights organizations, in case of such developments, as my Western colleagues advised me," he said. "We are well aware of that," Putin said.

Prisoners exchange

 Moscow calls on Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko to exchange prisoners in Donbass until the New Year, he said. 

"Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko instructed Mr. [Viktor] Medvedchuk [Ukraine’s envoy to the humanitarian group in the Contact Group] to be in charge of prisoner exchanges. The [Moscow] Patriarchy invited the latter to the Novo-Jerusalem Monastery where he asked, since there had not been any exchanges for a long time, to use our influence on leadership of the unrecognized republics DPR and LPR so that they would agree to the exchange," the president said.

"We fulfilled the work. I had first-ever phone conversations with the DPR and LPR leaders and they agreed. Then Medvedchuk, after consulting with the Ukrainian side as it was their proposal, submitted a list containing 67 persons from one side and about 300 from the other," he said.

"Afterwards, they suddenly said, ‘No, it is not good. We must amend the list.’ Let us do this after all and then we can go ahead," Putin said. "This goodwill gesture towards each other must be taken in the run-up to the New Year and Christmas."

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