Putin Says He Is Seeking Resolution of Conflict in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled no change in his approach to the conflict in Ukraine while saying that he is seeking a negotiated resolution to the crisis.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is “of course” attempting to restore peace and Russia is ready to be an intermediary in talks with separatist rebels, Putin said at his annual media conference in Moscow today.

Poroshenko “wants to resolve the situation but he is not alone,” and others in Ukraine are more militaristic, Putin said. The country needs dialogue to ensure a single political space is maintained in Ukraine.

Russia is locked in its worst standoff since the Cold War with the U.S. and the European Union over the crisis in Ukraine. The U.S. and the EU imposed sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea in March and extended them after accusing Russia of backing separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied it’s involved in the conflict.

People fighting for what’s in their hearts aren’t mercenaries, Putin said. Ukrainian troops are carrying out punitive action in the country’s southeastern regions and seeking to resolve the conflict with pro-Russian rebels with an economic blockade, he said.

Russia will continue to provide aid to people in eastern Ukraine, Putin said. If Ukraine wants peace it must respect the people who live there.

There are positive signs for resolving the conflict and a cease-fire agreed in Minsk, Belarus, in September is very important, Putin said. The president said he was one of the initiators of that agreement.

All prisoners from the conflict should be exchanged, he said. The Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who’s being held in jail in Russia, will be freed if the courts decide she is innocent of charges against her, Putin said.

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