Putin calls for Ukraine compromise
Published 22/06/2014 | 11:47
Russian president Vladimir Putin has urged both sides in the Ukrainian conflict to sit down at the negotiating table and find a compromise.
He said such a compromise must guarantee the rights of Russian-speaking residents of eastern Ukraine, who must feel like they are "an integral part" of Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian troops have declared independence and asked to join Russia, but Moscow has rebuffed their appeals. Both Ukraine and the West, however, accuse Russia of supporting the insurgency.
Mr Putin spoke on Sunday after laying a wreath during ceremonies commemorating the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
His comments followed a statement the night before in which he expressed support for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko's decision to declare a cease-fire.
Mr Putin appears determined to keep up the pressure to force the Kiev government to give the eastern industrial regions more powers and to prevent Ukraine from moving too close to the European Union or NATO. But he also wants to avoid more punishing sanctions from the US and particularly from the EU, whose leaders will meet on Friday in Brussels, and therefore needs to be seen as cooperating with efforts to de-escalate the conflict.
Mr Putin discussed the cease-fire on Sunday with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, Merkel's office and the Kremlin said.
"After the Russian government too referred to the cease-fire in positive terms, the interlocutors emphasised the need for all sides to abide by it now and for a political dialogue to be put in motion," Ms Merkel's office said in a statement.
"Another topic of the conversation was the issue of securing the Ukrainian-Russian border."
In a statement issued by the Kremlin late on Saturday, Putin welcomed Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko's decision to declare a cease-fire and called on "the opposing sides to halt any military activities and sit down at the negotiating table."
Putin's public comments on Sunday, which followed ceremonies commemorating the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, were more specific.
In Kiev, Mr Poroshenko called for peace, but urged his compatriots to stand strong and united.
"It was so during the violent struggle with the Nazis and it should be the same now," he said in his address.
"Facing a real threat, we must unite even more and secure our historical choice, defend our right to live freely on our land."