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24 Dec, 2021 13:06

Ukrainian ‘Nazis’ have taken control of Zelensky, Putin claims

Ukrainian ‘Nazis’ have taken control of Zelensky, Putin claims

Hopes for building peace in Ukraine’s east have been dashed, after its leader fell prey to “Nazi” influences, Russian President Vladimir Putin has alleged.

As tensions run high in the war-torn Donbass region, Putin remarked that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had been sucked into the orbit of the “Nazis” who had been pulling officials off the path of seeking a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.

Speaking to journalists at his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, the Russian leader said that “instead of responding to his people’s request for peace … President Zelensky came to power and, rather than fulfilling them, he, like his predecessors, fell under the influence of radical elements – as they say in Ukraine, Nazis.”

Moscow is doing “practically everything” to establish security in Ukraine’s war-torn regions, Putin said. However, it is a difficult task. “How can one build a relationship with today’s leadership, given what they are doing?” he mused. “It’s practically impossible.”

“But we are ready to work with those forces that would like to build relations with Russia in a good, neighborly way,” he said. He said the future of the Donbass should be determined by those living there.

Putin’s remarks come amid heightened tensions in eastern Ukraine, with Western leaders and media outlets alleging that Russian forces are amassing near the shared frontier ahead of launching a full-scale invasion. The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the allegations, arguing that they are groundless and a manifestation of “hysteria” in the press.

Moscow has instead accused the West of spurring on Kiev’s officials to engage in anti-Russian provocations. Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine was “becoming more and more insolent … with its aggressiveness towards the Minsk agreement, towards Russia, and in its attempts to provoke the West into supporting its militant aspirations.”

The Minsk Protocol is the ceasefire pact that was inked in 2014 in an effort to end the war in Donbass. The conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out following the events of the 2014 Maidan, when the elected government was ousted following violent street protests, with the self-declared Lugansk and Donetsk republics declaring their autonomy from Kiev.

Neither Russia, Ukraine, nor any other UN member state recognizes the breakaway republics' sovereignty. Zelensky alleges that the separatists are Russian-backed. Moscow has insisted it is not a party to the conflict, however, and has said it is down to Kiev to strike a deal with the leaders of the two regions on the Russian border.