February 23, 2015
Translated by Kristina Rus
Vladimir Putin was interviewed by Vladimir Solovyev for “Russia 1” on the “Day of the Defender of the Fatherland”, Febuary 23, 2015.
Vladimir Solovyev: Dear Mr. President, the whole country just celebrated the “Day of Defender of the Fatherland.” But on the territory of brotherly Ukraine it is now “the day of annexation of Crimea.” And Poroshenko announced that he will do everything possible in order to return Crimea. What is the stage in the Russian-Ukrainian relations? Are we going to wake up one day and find out that a war has begun?
Vladimir Putin: I think that such apocalyptic scenario is hardly possible, I hope that it will never get to that point. As far as returning of some territories, such things are of a revanchist character, and this is not about returning some territories somewhere. The thing is, in my view, and I don’t want to give any advice, but the leadership of such a big European country, as Ukraine, should first of all return the country to a normal life, fix the economy, the social sphere, fix their relationship with South-Eastern Ukraine in a civilized manner, provide legal rights and interests of the people, who reside in Donbass. If Minsk agreements will be realized, I am convinced that it will be done. As far as Crimea, remember, a year ago, when I spoke in front of the deputies of the Federal Assembly, I said that Crimea will remain the same as it used to – Russian, Ukrainian, Crimean- Tatar, Greek and German – it will be home to all of those people. As far as belonging to what state, the people who live in Crimea MADE their choice. It should be treated with respect. And Russia cannot treat it otherwise, and I hope that our partners in the near and far abroad will treat it ultimately the same, because the highest criteria of truth in this case can only be the opinion of the people themselves.
Solovyev: A rift has occurred in the opinion of the American part of the establishment and the European part. Americans say that Russia has invaded Debaltsevo, that it is time to initiate additional measures of pressure on Russia, and Kerry even blamed the European partners that their position is faint-hearted. Europe so far is not supporting it. Isn’t there a rift at the base?
Putin: To be honest, I have not heard of such assessments.
Solovyev: We say that it is a civil war, and Ukraine says: “No, it is a direct invasion by Russia” Why doesn’t the world see the truth?
Putin: It doesn’t want to. First of all, the world is complex and multi-faceted. And some see it. And others don’t want to and are omitting it. The monopoly on the world mass media allows our opponents to behave as they do. Perhaps my somewhat inaccurate statement during the visit to Hungary played a role, when I said, that it is humiliating to lose to yesterday’s coal miners and tractor drivers – it is not pleasant to loose to Russia too, but at least it is less humiliating. At the same time we are aware of the statements of the highest officials of the Ukrainian army, when the head of the General Staff had announced: “We are not fighting against the Russian army” What more do they need?
Overall, all of this is extremely unfortunate. The attempts to excuse the defeat, and the attempts to blame it on Russia, but the worst thing is the attempt to flare up the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
I have said it before, and will say it again, if the Minsk agreements will be followed, I am convinced that the situation will gradually normalize. And Europe is interested in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, no less then Russia, because no one needs a military conflict on the periphery of the EU.
Solovyev: Were you able to direct the attention of our European colleagues to the Nazi ideology that has triumphed in Kiev? Is there a worry?
Putin: They try not to notice it. But I would note their sincere desire to find such compromising decisions, which would lead to a final resolution. If you pay attention to the Minsk protocol, it talks about decentralization of power, and there is an footnote of what it entails. The authors of that footnote – are our German and French partners, and this speaks for their sincere desire to find those compromises, that I was just talking about.
[If Merkel and Hollande are the authors of only a footnote, then who is the author of the entire agreement? Poroshenko? But, wait, Poroshenko was unhappy with the agreement and almost walked out… One source reported on Russian TV that Putin wrote the Minsk agreement on his airplane. Then it is only natural for the author to stand so firmly behind what he wrote – K.R]
Solovyev: Did the Minsk agreement help bring back that level of trust that you used to have in the relationship with the leaders of Germany and France?
Putin: You know, you will not even find absolute trust in every family, not to mention at the international level. But I think that we trust each other for the most part and understand each other, but of course some element of mistrust remains, but nevertheless, my impression is that our partners trust us more often then not. And at least believe in our sincerity.
Solovyev: Do you have a working contact with the president of Ukraine, and do you trust that what Poroshenko will deliver on what he tells you?
Putin: We have preserved our contact. Sometimes I am somewhat surprised by the public statements of the leadership of Ukraine. For example that the staff of our administration took part in the events on Maidan a year ago. It is such absolute rubbish, so far from reality, that it is surprising were they get it from. Sometimes I hear later that such statements are based on the incorrect intelligence data of certain special agencies, as I am told. I would advise my Ukrainian colleagues to be more careful when using the intelligence that goes on their desks.
Solovyev: In the event of an escalation of military activity from Ukraine and national battalions, is Minsk 3 possible, or Russia’s urgent diplomatic measures toward recognition of LPR and DPR?
Putin: So far there is no need for any extra measures, because the Minsk agreement is not just a document that was developed by the four participants of this Minsk process, meaning Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, but they were ratified by a resolution of the Securiy Council of the Organisation of the United Nations and have adopted a form of an international legal act, basically supported by the entire international community. It is a very different story. And I very much hope that it will be followed, and if it will be followed, then it is the right path towards normalization of the situation in this region of the country.
So what have we learned from this interview? That if Poroshenko or Ukrainian volunteer battalions do not follow the Minsk agreement, then Russia will have to resort to some extra measures, which may or may not include the recognition of LPR and DPR (why did Solovyev formulate his question like that? And why didn’t Putin say “we would never recognize LPR and DPR, or reiterate that it should always be a part of Ukraine?) . And we know that it will be impossible for Ukraine to follow such agreement, because it goes against everything that the Kiev junta stands for. Thus Minsk will allow Putin to expose the Kiev junta for what it is in front of the entire word, and to exhaust all diplomatic efforts of peaceful resolution, leaving Russia no choice but to resort to other measures, with the support of the international community, which by then will be so exhausted from Ukraine that it will happy for Putin to force Ukraine to peace, even if it may mean, perhaps, using Russian peacekeepers…We don’t need to go any further then Transnistria and South Ossethia to see what’s in store for LPR and DPR (at least at one stage).