Putin 'urges talks on east Ukraine'
August 31, 2014 6:34 pm
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for talks to discuss “statehood” for eastern Ukraine.
He said the issue needed to be discussed to ensure the interests of local people “are definitely upheld”.
His comments came after the EU gave Russia a one-week ultimatum to reverse course in Ukraine or face sanctions.
Russia denies Western accusations that its forces illegally crossed into eastern Ukraine to support separatists there.
“Russia cannot stand aside when people are being shot at almost at point blank,” he added, describing the rebels’ actions as “the natural reaction of people who are defending their rights”.
He dismissed the EU’s threat of further sanctions, accusing the EU of “backing a coup d’etat” in Ukraine.
The West, Mr Putin said, should have foreseen Russia’s reaction to the situation, adding it was impossible to predict how the crisis would end.
Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later said the president’s remarks on “statehood” should not be taken to mean an actual separate entity, and that the Ukrainian crisis was a “domestic” one.
The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, in Moscow, says raising the concept of statehood in the east may be one way of Mr Putin increasing pressure on Kiev to halt its military operations.