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Zelensky’s legitimacy, nuke drills: what Putin told reporters in Minsk

Moscow and Minsk have "no unresolved issues", in particular in the energy sector, the Russian leader noted

MINSK, May 24. /TASS/. Moscow is well aware that the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has ended, and if the negotiations with Kiev are resumed, it needs to make sure that it is dealing with the legitimate government, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.

The Russian leader emphasized that Moscow "is not stirring up anything" while holding nuclear weapons drills and voiced hope that Russian-Iranian relations would not significantly change after the death of President Ebrahim Raisi.

TASS has compiled Putin’s key statements.

Zelensky’s legitimacy

"We are aware that the legitimacy of the current head of the Ukrainian state is over." Therefore, "it is not an idle question" with whom Moscow should hold negotiations.

The underlying purpose of the conference in Geneva is to confirm the legitimacy of Zelensky, but "these PR steps have no significance for legal documents."

Russia should make sure that it deals with legitimate Ukrainian authorities in case of resuming negotiations, but it is Ukraine that has to determine their legitimacy. "First and foremost, I think, from the position of the parliament, constitutional court or some other institutions."

Russia has never refused from talks on Ukraine. "We have not banned anyone from negotiating. We are in favor of negotiations."

Nuclear weapons exercises

Russia has conducted regular exercises of its nuclear forces, but now is holding them together with Belarus. "We have violated nothing about this. There is nothing extraordinary compared, say, with NATO, which regularly organizes such drills."

"As for compliance with the norms and Russia's obligations in this sphere, we fully comply with all our commitments in the field of nuclear weapons."

Russia is "not stirring up anything" with its nuclear exercises: "But, as it has been said, everything must be fine-tuned. In this field of activity there can be no place for failures, mistakes, or inconsistency. Coherence is what the exercises are dedicated to."

Raisi’s tragic death

Russian-Iranian relations are unlikely to significantly change after the death of President Ebrahim Raisi: "The fundamental basis of Iran’s statehood is quite steady, sustainable and reliable."

The delegation accompanying Raisi flew in Russian-made helicopters, which "flew in the same conditions, in the same corridor, without any problems (the Iranian president was on board a US-made helicopter - TASS)."

Russian-Belarusian relations

The joint regional grouping of troops, as well as Russian capabilities and tactical nuclear weapons, deployed in Belarus ensures protection of more than just this country: "Everything ensures safe protection of the western borders of our countries and the Collective Security Treaty Organization."

Moscow and Minsk have "no unresolved issues", in particular in the energy sector.

The terms of natural gas supplies to Belarus have been agreed for the next few years, and the work on creating a shared energy market "is ongoing as planned," although "specialists have slightly different approaches."

"It is planned to abolish roaming [charges] within the Union State in the near future."

Western sanctions

The West’s sanctions have stimulated Russia’s growth and enabled it to regain lost competencies in the high technology field and to create new ones: "They create certain problems, of course, we see and feel this. But they create for us and certain development opportunities."