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9 Dec, 2021 22:40

Conflict in eastern Ukraine ‘looks like genocide’ – Putin

Conflict in eastern Ukraine  ‘looks like genocide’ – Putin

What is currently going on in the two eastern regions of Ukraine is “very reminiscent” of genocide, Russian President Vladimir Putin has told a journalist previously imprisoned by authorities in Kiev for reporting on the conflict.

On Thursday, Putin took part in a lengthy session of Russia’s Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, discussing a range of subjects from Covid-19 vaccinations to prison reform. At one point, journalist Kirill Vishinsky raised the issue of the two regions in eastern Ukraine, where he said the Russian-speaking population was subjected to what he termed genocide.

“What is happening now in Donbass, you and I see very well, we know,” Putin responded. “This, of course, is very reminiscent of genocide of which you spoke.”

Putin called "Russophobia" the first step on the road to genocide, but noted that measures taken in response needed to be “very precise,” so as not to water down the concept. They should also “reflect the reality of the events taking place.”

“Let's think more about this,” he said.

Vishinsky, the former head of RIA Novosti Ukraine, spent over a year in a Ukrainian prison after Kiev accused him of treason and waging a “hybrid information war” on behalf of Moscow, over his reporting from Donbass. 

Putin addressed the issue of Ukraine in Tuesday’s video-call with US President Joe Biden, rejecting accusations from Washington that Russia was preparing an “invasion,” but insisting that Ukraine’s membership in NATO would be a “red line” for the Kremlin. 

Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday about, among other things, the matters he discussed with Putin. 

The Donetsk and Lugansk provinces in the eastern Donbass region declared independence from Ukraine in 2014, after the US-backed Maidan in Kiev overthrew the government and Crimea voted to rejoin Russia. Over 13,000 people, including children and elderly civilians, have been killed in the conflict, according to UN estimates. After failing to seize the regions by force, Kiev has pledged to give them broad autonomy under the Minsk agreements, but has yet to do so.