Ukraine conflict: Russia puts its position to Parliament
With peace talks underway, senior Russian politician Alexey Pushkov says Moscow remains open to dialogue with EU, but that Crimea will remain Russian.
With make or break peace talks on the conflict in Ukraine underway this week, a senior Russian politician arrived at the EU Parliament to put Moscow's position. To a Parliament, it should be noted, which only last month condemned what it said was Russia's aggressive and expansionist policy towards Ukraine. Alexey Pushkov is the Foreign Affairs Committee Chair of the Lower House of the Russian parliament, the Duma. EuroparlTV asked him first what new he was bringing to the table given the view of the EU's new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, that the EU's strategic partnership with Russia is over.
At this point, it's extremely important to maintain a dialogue as even if we heard from Ms Mogherini that the strategic partnership is over, Russia is not over and the EU is not over. They still exist on the same continent and they are bound to have some kind of relationship. We should now escape a possible divide between Russia and Europe, a divide that would be irrevocable and which would start a new Cold War. And to my mind, the moment today is mostly important for finding a quick answer to what is happening in Ukraine.
We have to stop the war in Ukraine. And this is exactly what President Putin, Mrs Merkel and François Hollande are trying so. And I am hopeful they will succeed. -Do you think on Wednesday that Russia will accept the Minsk Agreement as it was signed and agreed in September last year, including all of the provisions on the demilitarised area and the withdrawal of troops and equipment. I think that what has been discussed in Kiev and in Moscow with Vladimir Putin is a modified version of the Minsk Agreement.
The Minsk Agreement has been challenged by the developments on the ground, not only by the insurgents but also Kiev's actions. So I think that the three leaders in Moscow discussed how to make a new version of this Minsk Agreement and how to build some kind of understanding on the basis of this version. What do you think about the possibility of the Americans beginning to send or sell arms to Ukraine? I think that there is a high probability that they will do it. I think it is extremely dangerous, this is how the Vietnam war started for the US.
First, they sent weapons, then military advisers, then troops to protect military advisers, and then troops to fight the Vietnamese. So I think it's an extremely dangerous path which maybe the US doesn't comprehend. There are a lot of people in the US who still want to fight everywhere, two years ago they wanted to bomb Damascus now they want to send armaments to Ukraine. There are trigger happy people there like Senator McCain, I don't think it will serve European security. What's your reaction to the prospect of a new round of sanctions, particularly with the Russian economy in the state that it now is? I think the poor shape of Russia's economy is slightly overestimated in Europe.
I think Russia has some reserves and it can go on for some time on those reserves. I also think that there is a very deep national cohesion today. I would say that Russians are being pressed from the outside so they tend to be more united than they used to be before. Finally, I think that if the Minsk Agreement works out, I don't think the sanctions will be adopted because in this case, if there is an answer why adopt the sanctions? Many people said at the time of the old Minsk Agreement that it was a tactic on behalf of President Putin to buy time and consolidate increased military gains on the ground.
The insurgents also accuse Kiev of trying to use the armistice to try to regroup their forces and to re-arm the army. So I think that these accusations are flying from all quarters. But Russia maintains that Donbass area should be part of Ukraine. The question is not about this, we don't question the territorial integrity of Ukraine concerning Donbass. What we think should be done is for this area to have a status which is acceptable to residents: that they have some guarantees, that their demands are met. Around 7 million are living there.
We cannot just decide their fate over their heads. We have to find a solution that will be acceptable to them. If this is done then I think that Ukraine will remain a united country. One final thought on the same question. To those MEPs here in the EP, who argue that Crimea should also be returned to Ukraine, what will you say to them today? Well I'm afraid that the Crimean issue is not something on which Russia will change its position.
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