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'Sanitary zone' near Kharkov and talks on Ukraine: What Putin told the media in Harbin

Even though Vladimir Putin’s visit to China was a state one, "it was a purely working trip"

HARBIN, May 17. /TASS/. Russia has no plans to seize the city of Kharkov at this point, while its offensive is aimed at creating "a sanitary zone" to protect border areas from shelling attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters during a visit to China.

According to him, it’s up to Ukrainian institutions to assess the legitimacy of the country’s President Vladimir Zelensky after his term in office expires. That said, in Putin’s words, it is important to remember that the current Ukrainian authorities are rooted in a coup. The Russian leader also noted with surprise that attempts were being made to impose some conditions for resolving the Ukraine issue on Moscow. He also described Russia’s increased military spending as "absolutely normal."

TASS has gathered the key takeaways from what the head of state said.

On China visit

Even though Putin’s visit to China was a state one, "it was a purely working trip." He managed to discuss many issues with Chinese President Xi Jinping and senior officials.

Strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing "is not directed against anyone." "It is aimed at creating better conditions for the development of our countries and the further improvement of the well-being of the people of China and Russia."

On talks on Ukraine

Russia is ready to discuss resolving the situation in Ukraine but will not tolerate attempts to impose conditions. "Are you crazy? Why should we? Undoubtedly, we will be guided by the realities on the ground."

Unlike Kiev, Moscow has never refused to engage in dialogue but it’s important for Russia to understand who is worth talking to: "We need to figure out who we should and can deal with and who we can trust, and to what extent."

The leaders of Russia and China also discussed an invitation to China to take part in a Swiss-hosted summit on resolving the Ukraine issue. The meeting’s goal is "to gather as many countries as possible in order to be able to say later that a decision was made, presenting it to Russia as an ultimatum." "This is not going to happen."

As for Russia’s absence from the conference, "they aren’t inviting us." "Moreover, they say they don’t see us as participants. <...> Well, if they don’t, it’s okay."

On offensive in Kharkov Region

The Russian army is making headway in the Kharkov Region but there are "currently no plans" to seize the city of Kharkov.

Kiev is the one to blame for the offensive as Ukrainian forces keep shelling Russia’s border areas, including the city of Belgorod: "They keep targeting the city center and residential areas. I said it publicly that if it continued like that, we would have to create a safety zone, a kind of sanitary zone. This is what we are doing."

On Zelensky’s legitimacy

"It is up to Ukraine’s political, judicial and legal systems to answer" the question of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s legitimacy after his term in office expires. "It will certainly matter to us because if <...> it comes to signing some documents, we will need to sign documents in such an important field with legitimate authorities."

The thing to keep in mind is that "all the current Kiev authorities are rooted in a coup."

On Olympic truce

Putin and Xi Jinping discussed the idea of an Olympic truce: "Well, we kind of touched upon it." "The Olympic principles, including that of the Olympic truce, are a very good thing. <...> The problem is that it is today’s international sports officials that are violating these principles and the very Olympic Charter."

On French troops in Ukraine

Putin declined to comment on Moscow’s possible response to the potential deployment of French troops to Ukraine, an idea put forward by French President Emmanuel Macron: "First, you should ask him if troops will be deployed or not. Then we will consider retaliation options to this move."

On Russian defense spending

Russia’s defense spending is currently "not that high; it’s absolutely normal." Some experts believe that it can even be increased. "The budget capacity <...> makes it possible."

On humanity’s future

"It’s partially true that the future depends on Russia and China. However, it’s only partly true because humanity’s future depends on all of humanity." Still, the two countries’ development "will undoubtedly impact the development of our partners across the globe."