The conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine has been in the news increasingly of late, and on Thursday 7 June, Russian President Vladimir Putin had some strong statements to make about the Ukrainian policy towards the people in this region.
According to Russia Today’s report, President Putin answered questions on the regularly scheduled question-and-answer program called “Direct line with the president”, where the Russian leader fields questions from the press and from citizenry across the Russian Federation. This year, there are almost two million such questions. President Putin fielded one particular one from Russian journalist and writer Zakhar Prilepin, who is currently a voluntary advisor to the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the DNR.
Prilepin asked the president if he considered it possible that pro-Kiev forces would launch a major offensive operation in the war-ridden south-east of Ukraine during the 2018 World Cup in Russia which begins in one week.
Putin said that he personally hoped that such thing would not happen and noted that such a development would “inflict a tremendous damage to the Ukrainian statehood” adding that he personally believed that it was impossible to intimidate the people from the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
‘It is impossible to intimidate the Donbass people. We see how they endure all these hardships, we send them help and we will continue doing this,’ Putin stated.
President Putin also took this discussion a bit further than in the past. While still retaining the classic statesman style he has held for so many years, this year, and on this program, his words have a little more bite. The Russian President took the present-day (and allegedly extremely corrupt) leadership of Ukraine itself to task:
Putin also asked a rhetorical question – how was it possible that Kiev authorities attempt to solve the problems of Donbass and consider this region Ukrainian territory while at the same time destroying the republics’ economies with blockades and openly robbing their residents. The Russian leader added that Ukrainian officials kept their personal fortunes in offshore bank accounts.
The Ukrainian conflict is one of the most poorly covered stories in the West, with a long record of anti-Russia hysteria both in the Kyiv government and in the West. While the Russian president has repeatedly claimed that no Russian regular military is operating in the Donbass region, he is very clear about expressing his support for the people in this region. Mr. Putin has repeatedly advocated for the people in Donbass, asking Thursday why the Ukraine has not granted this region a special status within Ukraine, much as Russia did with Chechnya.
“Russia had to make a very complicated decision and grant the Chechen Republic and many other federation subjects such status that gave them a great degree of independence within the Russian Federation … the same thing could be done in Ukraine in regards of the Donbass republics and I wonder, why have not they done it yet?
“Under such scenario there is no necessity to restrict the usage of ethnic minorities’ languages in Ukraine, I mean not only Russian but also Romanian, Hungarian and Polish. There is little talk about it in Europe but these are the today’s realities,” the Russian president said.
President Putin has also requested UN peacekeeping forces for the region, but this move was blocked by the United States and Ukrainian delegations last year, so the dispute remains in a stalemate at this time.