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MOSCOW, February 9. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is convinced that in order to settle the crisis in Ukraine, Kiev should urgently stop its military operation in the country’s south-east and work out such a form of constitutional arrangement that would suit all Ukrainians.
When asked how he would assess the situation in Ukraine and around it and what he thought would be the most appropriate way out of the Ukrainian crisis, Putin said he "would like to remind Egyptian readers that the Ukrainian crisis was not caused by the Russian Federation."
"It has emerged in response to the attempts of the USA and its western allies who considered themselves ‘winners’ of the Cold War to impose their will everywhere. Promises of non-expansion of the NATO to the East (given yet to the Soviet authorities) have turned out to be hollow statements," he said in an interview with Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram on the eve of his visit to Cairo.
"We have seen how NATO's infrastructure was moving closer and closer towards Russian borders and how Russian interests were being ignored," Putin said.
"Moreover, in the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership Program there have been attempts to tear states which had been parts of the former USSR off Russia and to prompt them to make an artificial choice ‘between Russia and Europe’," he said.
"The Ukrainian crisis has become a high point of these negative trends. We repeatedly warned the USA and its western allies about harmful consequences of their interference in Ukrainian domestic affairs but they did not listen to our opinion," the Russian president said.
"Last February the USA and a number of EU member states supported the coup d’etat in Kiev. The ultranationalists who seized the power using military force put the country on the edge of disruption and started the fratricidal war," he said.
"Unfortunately, today we can see how the ‘war party’ in Kiev actively supported from the outside continues its attempts to push the Ukrainian people over the edge of a catastrophe. The situation in Donbas has aggravated dramatically," Putin said.
"Ukrainian security forces resumed the bombing of Donetsk, Luhansk and other residential areas in the region. They are building up their military presence there. The ‘new wave’ of mass mobilization has been announced in the country; there are calls for ‘taking revenge after summer ‘military failures’ and for a forceful ‘Ukrainization of Donbas’," he said.
"Ukraine is militarizing rapidly. We can judge by the statistics: in 2014, the Ukrainian military budget increased by almost 41% This year, according to preliminary data, it will more than triple and reach more than $3 billion — which is about 5% of the country's GDP. And this is happening when its economy supported mostly with international, including Russian, funds is in rather deplorable situation," Putin said.
"We certainly feel worried. We hope that common sense will prevail. Russia strongly calls for a comprehensive and exclusively peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis based on the Minsk agreements which were largely achieved owing to the initiative and efforts of the Russian side," he said.
"The most important condition for the stabilization of the situation is immediate cease-fire and ending of a so called ‘anti-terrorist’, but in fact punitive, operation in the south-east of Ukraine. Kiev's attempts to exert economic pressure on Donbas and disrupt its daily life only aggravate the situation," Putin said.
"This is a dead-end track, fraught with a big catastrophe," he said.
"It is evident that the crisis will continue until the Ukrainians themselves agree with each other. Until the unbridled radicalism and nationalism are finished with, and the society is consolidated around positive values and genuine interests of Ukraine," Putin said.
"To achieve this, Kiev authorities need to listen to their people, find a common language and reach an agreement with all political forces and regions of the country. They need to elaborate such constitutional state system formula that would provide for a safe and comfortable living for all citizens with human rights being fully observed," he said.
"In the meantime, it is necessary to do one's utmost to make all the parties to the conflict gather around the negotiating table. In this context, the Russian side stands for forging sustainable and direct contacts between Kiev and Donetsk and Luhansk, for continued work within the Contact Group. On our part, we intend to actively contribute to that process," the Russian president said.