Pavel Zarubin: Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV Channel.
Your decisions and statements yesterday have certainly evoked a stormy international response, a real uproar.
And, of course, there is a lot of speculation about how Putin allegedly wants to restore Russia to the borders of the Russian Empire. You have already said that this is not the case but in what borders have the DPR and the LPR been recognised? After all, Donetsk and Lugansk regions are large and Russian people live there as well.
And a question that suggests itself: what will happen with the Minsk agreements now? Russia has insisted on their implementation for seven years now.
And, of course, I have to ask you to comment on the latest news. The Federation Council has just approved your request to deploy the Armed Forces of Russia abroad. What can you tell us about this? How big could this operation get?
Thank you very much.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Deploying the Armed Forces abroad. Second, the borders of the DPR and the LPR, and the Russian Empire, right?
Pavel Zarubin: And the Minsk agreements. What will happen with them now?
Vladimir Putin: Let us start with the Minsk agreements – the Minsk Package of Measures to settle the situation in southeastern Ukraine. That is what they are called.
It is not seven but almost eight full years that we have been working on this. By “we”, I mean Russia, and yours truly was the author of these documents. Therefore, I would like to emphasise again that we were interested in seeing this package of measures implemented, because it was the result of a compromise.
The leaders of the two then unrecognised republics signed these documents. Incidentally, one of them was killed in a terrorist act. He was killed by the special services of Ukraine, an agent of these services. There is no question here. This is an obvious thing, simply an outright political assassination.
But what matters is that the leaders of the two republics signed these documents. We managed to broker this compromise at that time. By the way, it was not easy to do this because initially the leaders of these entities did not want to take part in the Minsk agreements and to sign their names to these documents. But a compromise was reached nonetheless, which was real progress towards achieving a settlement by peaceful means.
As it was said yesterday during the Security Council meeting, over all these years, the efforts of the current Kiev authorities reduced it all to naught. So, the Minsk agreements were dead long before yesterday’s recognition of the people’s republics of Donbass. They were killed not by us and not by the representatives of these republics, but by the current Kiev authorities.
In fact, yesterday's event – the recognition of these republics – was dictated precisely by the fact that the Ukrainian leadership had publicly declared that they were not going to abide by these agreements. Not going to abide by them. Well, what else can you say to that? The top officials have publicly said so.
What more is there to wait for? Should we wait for this abuse of people to continue, this genocide of the almost four million people who live in these territories? It is unbearable to watch. You can see for yourself what is going on there. Well, how can you continue to put up with that? As a matter of fact, that is all there is to it.
When we spoke to our European colleagues, they all said the same thing: “Yes, this is the way forward,” but in reality they were unable to force their partners in the current leadership in Kiev to do so. So, we were compelled to take this decision and, in this sense, indeed, the Minsk agreements do not exist anymore. Why abide by them if we have recognised the independence of these entities?
With regard to the borders within which we will recognise these republics, we did recognise them, which means we recognised their foundational documents, including the Constitution, and the Constitution stipulates their borders within the Donetsk and Lugansk regions at the time when they were part of Ukraine. But we expect, and I want to emphasise this, that all disputes will be resolved during talks between the current Kiev authorities and the leaders of these republics. Unfortunately, at this point in time, we realise that it is impossible to do so, since hostilities are still ongoing and, moreover, they are showing signs of escalating. But I hope this is how it will turn out in the future.
Regarding the use of the Armed Forces abroad. Well, of course. By all means. We signed treaties yesterday, and these treaties with the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic contain relevant clauses that say that we will provide these republics with appropriate assistance, including military. Since there is an ongoing conflict there, we make it clear by this decision that, if need be, we plan to fulfill our obligations.
Please, go ahead.
Veronika Ichyotkina: Good afternoon. TASS news agency. A question about Donbass as well.
Obviously, Ukraine cannot or does not want to recognise the sovereignty of the DPR and the LPR, and they are certainly unhappy about our decision to recognise the sovereignty of the republics.
After what happened yesterday and today, do you see any prospects for improving relations between Moscow and Kiev? If so, what should Moscow and Kiev do to make it happen? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: You know, we discussed these issues with our European partners during our talks and meetings for many hours. In fact, we also spoke with the Americans about these issues more than once.
I think this was not said in public, but I will say it. Naturally, this question suggests itself: what should both sides, or Kiev do for the situation to be considered settled in the long-term historical perspective so that we could live in peace and there would be no conflicts, to say nothing of armed conflicts?
I will reveal this dark secret to you. Ultimately, there is nothing secret about this. The first thing that everyone should do is to recognise the will of the people who live in Sevastopol and in Crimea. I have said this many times but I want to stress it again. In what way was this expression of popular will any worse than what happened in Kosovo? In no way. It is just that their decisions were made by parliament and ours at a nationwide referendum.
I would like to emphasise once again: nobody could have herded people into polling stations with machineguns or bayonets. They came there of their own free will and made their decision to reunite with Russia. This decision must be respected. If those countries that argue against it consider themselves democracies, they must recognise it eventually. A referendum is the highest form of democracy. This is my first point.
The second. We have spoken about this publicly many times and, in effect, this is the subject of our sharpest dispute with Washington and NATO. We are categorically opposed to Ukraine joining NATO because this poses a threat to us and we have arguments to support this. I have repeatedly spoken about it in this hall.
On this point, of course, we are proceeding from what many people are saying, including in the capitals of Western countries, I mean that the best decision would be for our colleagues in the Western countries not to lose face, so to say, and for Kiev itself to refuse to join NATO. In effect, in so doing, they would translate the idea of neutrality into life. This is my second point.
My third point, unfortunately, is not relevant any longer. I have always said that the Donbass issue had to be resolved through peace talks and implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Finally, the all-important fourth point. Everything mentioned so far could be upset in a second if our so-called partners continue to pump the current Kiev authorities full of modern types of weapons. Therefore, the most important point is the demilitarisation, to a certain extent, of today’s Ukraine because it is the only factor that can be objectively controlled, monitored and responded to.
Everything else can change completely in either direction overnight, the way, for example, the current Ukrainian leader made the previous leader persona non grata by initiating criminal proceedings against him for his allegedly treacherous actions, because he disapproved of the Minsk agreements.
These potential agreements, which I have just mentioned, could be repudiated the same way, if they were to be approved by the current leadership. He would just leave for Washington, Paris or Berlin and that’s it, while we would be left with an “anti-Russia” armed to the teeth. This is totally unacceptable, particularly now, after Ukraine’s current authorities have declared their nuclear ambitions.
Please, go ahead.
Alexander Yunashev: Alexander Yunashev, Life.
Mr President, yesterday, in your address to the Russian people you cited Zelensky, and it seems to be not for the first time, as saying that Ukraine might get nuclear weapons again and Ukraine might join the nuclear club.
Vladimir Putin: …I just said this.
Alexander Yunashev: Are these just statements or is the threat of nuclear weapons being deployed in Ukraine at our border real?
Vladimir Putin: I have just mentioned it. We take it that these words were primarily addressed to us. I want to say that we have heard them. Ever since Soviet times, Ukraine has had fairly broad nuclear competencies, they have several nuclear power units and the nuclear industry is fairly well developed, they have dedicated schools, there is everything there to solve this issue much faster than in those countries which are solving matters from scratch. I will not enumerate them, you know all about it anyway. This is number one.
They only lack one thing – uranium enrichment systems. But this is a matter of technology, it is not unsolvable for Ukraine, it can be remedied quite easily. As to delivery vehicles, I think I already said in yesterday’s address that they have old Soviet-made Tochka-U missiles with a range of 100 plus kilometres, 110 kilometres. This is also not a problem in view of the competencies, say, at Yuzhmash, which used to manufacture intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Soviet Union.
What is the threat to us? The appearance of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine is a strategic threat to us. Because the range can be extended from 110 kilometres to 300, to 500 – and that is it, Moscow will be in the strike zone. This is a strategic threat to us. And that is how we took it. We definitely must and will take it very seriously.
Andrei Kolesnikov: Andrei Kolesnikov, Kommersant newspaper.
Mr President, do you think it is possible in today’s world to resolve problems with force and remain on the side of good? This is my first question.
The second one is more technical, if you will. In your view, how far might troops advance: up to the contact line, to the administrative borders of the DPR and LPR, or somewhere else?
Vladimir Putin: First, I did not say our troops would enter right away, after our meeting here. That is first. Second, it is absolutely impossible to predict the detailed path of possible actions. It depends on the concrete situation that is unfolding on the ground, as they say.
Regarding the question if all issues can and must be resolved by force or if it is possible to remain on the side of good. Well, why do you think that good must always be frail and helpless? I do not think that is true. I think good means being able to defend oneself. We will proceed from that.
Thank you. All the best to you.