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Putin’s sway on Donbass overestimated — Kremlin

Peskov noted that the Russian president had never made his influence on the republics' leaders a secret

MOSCOW, November 16. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin does have certain influence on the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics in Donbass, but it is not infinite, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media about Wednesday’s telephone conversation the Russian leader held with the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics.

Asked if the president by doing so might have violated the principle Russia was not a party to the conflict in Ukraine, Peskov replied: "By no means."

"We have no leverage to put pressure on these unrecognized republics. We have no opportunity to give instructions to anyone there, because these republics live their own lives. But the president has never made a secret of his ability to address them with calls and to cause certain influence - not infinite, of course. Only to a certain extent," Peskov said.

Putin used that influence in response to a call from Ukraine’s special representative for humanitarian affairs Viktor Medvedchuk for promoting an exchange of prisoners of war and the approval of that idea by Patriarch Kirill, of Moscow and All Russia.

Peskov confirmed that in the telephone conversations with the Donetsk and Lugansk leaders Putin mentioned an idea of a large-scale exchange of persons held prisoner on both sides "to meet with the understanding of both parties, on the condition though, that the details are still to be agreed with the Ukrainian side."

"Putin did not hear a refusal," Peskov said, adding that the hope was expressed for coordinating the details of such an exchange with Kiev.

Asked by a Ukrainian journalist why the report about that conversation, published on the Kremlin’s website, did not contain the adjective "unrecognized" in relation to the two republics in question, Peskov said, "These republics are called that way [Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic -TASS] and their names on the Kremlin’s website have remained unchanged all the way."