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26 Jan, 2024 21:36

Ukraine committed ‘genocide’ in Donbass – Putin

Russia’s “geopolitical adversaries” had sought to “exterminate” anyone wanting good relations with Moscow, the president has said
Ukraine committed ‘genocide’ in Donbass – Putin

Kiev’s actions in Donbass between 2014 and 2022 were nothing short of “genocide,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday. The post-Maidan coup authorities in Ukraine were determined to “physically” get rid of anyone who still supported the development of good relations with Moscow, he added.

Russia cited the need to protect the people of Donbass from continued persecution by Kiev as one of the major reasons it launched its military operation in February 2022. In the wake of the 2014 Maidan coup, two former Ukrainian territories with predominantly Russian-speaking populations declared their independence from Kiev and created the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

The post-coup Ukrainian government responded by launching an “anti-terrorist” operation against the two Donbass republics, sparking a protracted conflict that has raged ever since, in one form or another.

Russia initially sought to resolve the issue through the later-derailed Minsk Agreements, which envisaged a special autonomous status for the two republics within Ukraine. Moscow repeatedly accused Kiev of failing to implement the terms of the accords. In 2022, former German chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that the accords brokered by Russia, Germany, and France in 2015 were merely a strategic ploy aimed at buying Ukraine more time to prepare for a conflict with Russia.

”Everything that was happening there… was genocide,” Putin said on Friday, referring to the events that had been unfolding in Donbass between 2014 and 2022. “This cannot be called otherwise,” he said, adding that people were being “exterminated.” He also pointed to the fact that Kiev’s forces continued to fight the Donbass militias after the Minsk Agreements had already been signed.

According to the president, Russia’s “geopolitical adversaries understood that they could not just turn Ukraine upside-down with its Russian-speaking population in the southeast.” The 2014 coup opened the way for the “physical extermination of anyone who was willing to develop normal relations with Russia,” Putin said, adding that “it had become clear that we would not be allowed to build normal relations with our neighbor.”

Ukraine was being turned into an “anti-Russian” state, the president said, adding that such developments had left Moscow no choice to avoid launching its military operation.

Putin has repeatedly referred to Ukraine’s policies in Donbass as “genocide.” In June 2022, several months into the conflict with Ukraine, he said “there can be no other definition for the Kiev regime’s actions than ‘a crime against humanity’.”

In February 2022, just days before the start of the Russian campaign, the nation’s Investigative Committee reported that more than 2,600 civilians had been killed over the past eight years amid the conflict in Donbass. More than 5,500 civilians were injured over the same period, it added.

A UN report published in January 2022 put the total number of deaths linked to the Donbass conflict at that time at more than 14,000. At least 3,400 of them were civilians, including more than 150 children, it added.