Putin’s Monday interview on Ukraine is not reassuring
President Vladimir Putin is ratcheting up his nationalistic saber-rattling, and on Monday even made a veiled threat regarding an “apocalyptic war” with Ukraine. Putin was interviewed by Russian media on Monday, and he hinted at the possibility of all-out war with Ukraine.
“I believe such (an) apocalyptic scenario is unlikely, and hope that it will never get to that point,” Putin said cryptically in the interview.
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The UN reports that well over 5,000 people have been killed since mid-April amid the fighting between pro-Russian rebels, Russian troops and Ukrainian troops. Aid agencies estimate close to half of those who have died were civilians.
On Monday, Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin almost begged the 15-member U.N. Security Council to send peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine. He also said Russian-supported rebels were continuing attacks, and accused “militants and their Russian masters” of preventing OSCE monitors from moving in to supervise the removal of heavy weaponry from the front line.
Putin on the Minsk agreement
The Minsk agreement between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany was hammered out nearly two weeks ago, and it was to include a ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists as well as an agreement for the removal of heavy weapons from the front line.
The agreement was almost immediately violated by the rebels, who continued to press their attack on the key town of Debalseve.
Although the ceasefire is clearly not working, in his interview Putin cynically claimed there’s no need for other immediate actions aside from the Minsk Agreement, such as more international peace talks or some kind of formal recognition of rebel separatist groups.
“I really hope (the Minsk Agreement) is implemented, and if it is — it is the right way to normalization of situation in that Ukrainian region,” Putin noted.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is attempting to monitor the ceasefire, is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council Tuesday afternoon.
Also of note, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France are scheduled to get together to discuss the cease-fire on Tuesday.
Putin on Crimea
Putin also said in his interview that there’s no way Crimea will ever go back to Ukraine.
“Regarding the return of any territories, such things are of revengeful nature, and it is not about return of some territories somewhere,” Putin commented. “Crimea will remain Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar, Greek, and German — it will be a home to all these nations. With regard to its nationality, Crimean people made their choice, which we must respect.”
Rebels moving on Mariupol?
Analysts have long suspected that Putin’s real goal was to create a land bridge between Crimea and Russia, and the only way to accomplish that was to take the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. Satellite imagery has confirmed that at least 20 Russian tanks and other heavy artillery have taken up positions near Mariupol in a clear violation of the Minsk agreement.
Obviously related to this, Ukrainian authorities said rebel attacks continued on Tuesday at several locations near the port city of Mariupol.
Possible heavy weapons pullback on Tuesday
On Tuesday, Ukrainian rebels announced they had initiated the pull back of heavy weapons from the front lines as called for in the Minsk agreement.
Rebel Chief Eduard Basurin said the withdrawal began at 9 a.m. Tuesday, but the movement of weapons could not be independently confirmed.
According to Voice of America, Ukrainian military officials have not commented yet, but as of yesterday were saying they would not pull weapons back as long as the fighting continues.