Russia is not to blame for the conflict in Ukraine and can’t be held solely responsible for fulfilling a peace accord there, President Vladimir Putin said.
An agreement negotiated by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Minsk, Belarus, in February has to be implemented in full to end the conflict between government forces and separatist rebels, Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.
“Russians and Ukrainians are one people, with a common history, culture and spiritual roots,” Putin said. “Whatever has happened, Russia and Ukraine are fated to have a shared future in the end.”
Russia is locked in the most serious confrontation since the Cold War with the U.S. and the European Union which imposed sanctions after accusing Putin of sending troops and weapons to support separatists in Ukraine. The more than yearlong conflict has killed at least 6,300 people, according to the United Nations.
The EU extended restrictions on business with Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula seized by Russia last year at the start of its conflict with Ukraine’s pro-European government. A one-year rollover of Crimea sanctions until June 23, 2016, was announced on Friday, including an embargo on imports from and investment in Crimea, a ban on package tours and curbs on technology exports.
The U.S. is meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs using methods including financing non-governmental organizations, Putin said. He said that Russia and the U.S. have much in common, including a desire to work together against terrorism, the threat of drugs and infectious diseases, and that he hopes they can rebuild ties.