Putin Rebukes Ukraine for Cutting Links With East Regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to his isolation at a global summit over his role in fomenting fighting in Ukraine by chastising authorities in Kiev.

Putin said his counterpart in Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, made a “big mistake” by moving to sever banking services and pull out state companies from two breakaway regions. He spoke after Group of 20 leaders berated Russia over the conflict at a summit in Brisbane, Australia.

“Why are the authorities in Kiev now cutting off these regions with their own hands?” Putin told reporters. “I do not understand this. Or rather, I understand that they want to save money, but this is not the right occasion and the right time to do this.”

Putin, who was told by fellow leaders to stop arming pro-Russian rebels, said he was leaving the G-20 gathering early to get some sleep on the flight home before tomorrow’s meetings. Russia has rejected accusations that it’s supplying manpower and weapons to support the insurgents who have carved out separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

The government in Kiev is moving to revoke the special status and cut off links with rebel-held areas of the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after they held elections two weeks ago that Ukraine considers illegitimate.

Severing Ties

Under a presidential decree issued yesterday, state companies and institutions were ordered to suspend work and evacuate employees with their consent. The central bank must stop Ukrainian lenders from servicing accounts used by individuals and companies in the breakaway areas, according to the document on Poroshenko’s website.

“This is a big mistake because in this way they are cutting off these regions with their own hands,” Putin said, adding that he wants to discuss the decision with Poroshenko. “I do not think this a fatal blow though. I hope that life and practice in reality will yet make their adjustments to these plans.”

Foreign troops remain in Ukraine and the conflict won’t be “frozen” before they leave, Poroshenko said today in Bratislava after talks with Slovak President Andrej Kiska. The crisis can be solved in two weeks if the cease-fire agreement signed Sept. 5 in Minsk is implemented, combat stops and the border with Russia is secured and put under the oversight of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Poroshenko said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has accused Russia of bringing artillery, tanks, and rockets over the border into Ukraine, and the rebels of violating the peace accord.

Conflict Simmers

Fighting continued to flare during the past day, with the insurgents clashing once with government troop and shelling their positions 26 times, according to the Defense Ministry in Kiev. Six soldiers were wounded and none killed, it said.

A humanitarian aid convoy carrying 450 metric tons of cargo arrived from Russia today in Makiyivka, a rebel-held town in the Donetsk region, Russia’s state-run news service RIA Novosti reported. That’s the seventh such delivery from Russia since August, according to RIA.

The Donetsk regional governor, who was appointed by the government in Kiev, said “public tensions” were mounting in the area as a result of fighting, missed pension and salary payments and rising prices for food medicine, Governor Oleksandr Kikhtenko said in a Nov. 14 statement.

‘Different Path’

The crisis in Ukraine overshadowed the G-20 summit, and European foreign ministers meeting tomorrow in Brussels will discuss expanding the list of individuals targeted by sanctions, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke with Putin for almost four hours during a late night meeting.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who met with European leaders on the sidelines of the summit to discuss the crisis, said Russia had the “opportunity to take a different path” on Ukraine or face continued isolation. He said he wasn’t ready to commit to increased sanctions on the country, saying the measures already in place “are biting plenty good.”

The crisis is the worst standoff between Russia and its former Cold War foes since the Iron Curtain fell 25 years ago. Putin told reporters he thought he and his fellow leaders now better understood each other on Ukraine after one-on-one talks on the issue.

“It might sound strange to you, but I think there are good hopes for being able to settle the situation” in Ukraine, Putin said. “What matters most for Russia is that there be respect for the interests of people throughout the country.”

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