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10 Dec, 2019 13:43

Putin: If Kiev gets control of rebel-held border with Russia, a Srebrenica-type massacre may follow

Putin: If Kiev gets control of rebel-held border with Russia, a Srebrenica-type massacre may follow

Moscow is concerned that if Kiev troops take control of the border between Russia and eastern Ukraine without ironclad guarantees to anti-government militias, a massacre not unlike the one in ex-Yugoslav Srebrenica may occur.

Speaking of Kiev’s demands on Tuesday, Putin said there needs to be absolute certainty that people in eastern Ukraine would be safe once control of the border changes hands, considering that there is not even an amnesty in place.

“We agreed [on the roadmap] in 2015. They have an amnesty law, some decisions have been taken, but nothing has been put into force,” Putin told the presidential human rights council. Without guarantees, “I can imagine what would happen next. There will be a Srebrenica.”

The warning from the Russian president comes a day after his first-ever meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris.

Reconciliation between the Ukrainian government and the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics, which border Russia, was the primary item on the agenda.

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The roadmap to peace under the so-called Minsk Agreements includes a constitutional reform, an amnesty of rebel militias, and an election of MPs to the Ukrainian parliament to represents residents of the breakaway regions. The final step would be for Ukrainian troops to take control of the border. Kiev has agreed to the roadmap, but says the border takeover must come first.

Putin said he was not certain that President Volodymyr Zelensky would be able to keep a check on Ukrainian radical nationalists, who gained significant prominence in the country since the 2014 armed coup in Kiev, in which nationalist fighters played a key part.

“We have seen the way Zelensky talks to the nationalists, and it’s not clear who has the upper hand there,” he explained.

There is no certainty what would happen and who will be in command of those nationalists once they enter [breakaway] territories without a safety guarantee.

Zelensky was elected president this year on a promise to bring peace to eastern Ukraine. His administration has managed to secure some progress on that path, implementing the disengagement of forces in parts of the frontline and negotiating an exchange of prisoners. His effort, however, upset some Ukrainian nationalists, who see it as a kind of surrender, while his political opponents tried to hijack that sentiment to score political points at Zelensky's expense.

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The 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, a town in what is now Bosnia & Herzegovina, was one of the grimmest episodes of the bloody wars that took place during the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Thousands of Bosniak men and teen boys were killed in the town by the Bosnian Serb troops commanded by Ratko Mladic, who was later convicted to life in prison for genocide.

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