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15 Feb, 2024 01:54

Russia should have begun Ukraine operation earlier – Putin

Moscow was wrong to believe in the good faith of Kiev and its Western backers, the president says
Russia should have begun Ukraine operation earlier – Putin

Russia was previously too trusting of its opponents in trying to resolve the long-running Ukraine crisis through diplomacy, and should have resorted to decisive action earlier, President Vladimir Putin suggested on Wednesday.

Following the 2014 coup in Kiev, Moscow tried to settle the bloodshed in Donbass “by peaceful means,” namely the Minsk Accords, which envisaged a special autonomous status for the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics within Ukraine, Putin told journalist Pavel Zarubin.

“The only thing we can regret is that we did not start our active actions earlier, believing that we were dealing with decent people,” the Russian leader stated.

Russia cited the need to protect the people of Donbass from continued persecution by Kiev as one of the major reasons for launching 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.

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

Moscow then accused successive leaders in Kiev of refusing to abide by the Minsk agreements, brokered by Germany and France, leading to their breakdown.

“It turned out later that we were being deceived in this regard, because both the former German chancellor and the former president of France admitted straightforwardly in public that they never planned to fulfil the agreements. Instead, they were buying time to deliver more weapons to the Kiev regime, which is exactly what they did,” the Russian leader said on Wednesday.

Moscow has repeatedly insisted that it is still ready to settle the hostilities through negotiations, blaming the lack of any diplomatic breakthrough on Kiev. In March 2022, Ukraine signed a preliminary agreement which obliged Russia to withdraw its troops from around the Ukrainian capital. However, Kiev violated the deal almost immediately after then-British PM Boris Johnson reportedly advised Ukrainians to “just continue fighting.” 

Should Russia and Ukraine ever return to the negotiating table, the potential talks will not be the same, as Kiev will have to accept the “new reality,” the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week, apparently referring to the incorporation of four former Ukrainian regions – Zaporozhye and Kherson, as well as DPR and LPR – into Russia following referendums in late 2022.