The leaders of independent republics Donetsk and Lugansk see their long term future with the Russian Federation.
The Donetsk People’s Republic leader Alexander Zakharchenko spoke at a press conference during a meeting with Russian politicians indicating a wish to be part of Russia again.
Zakharchenko said: “We have only one goal, returning to the homeland.”
The Donetsk leader reminded his audience that the people of Donbass are Russians.
Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, meahwhile, has refused to comment on a tweet of US President Donald Trump calling to “make peace” accompanied by photos of his meetings with top Russian and Ukrainian diplomats.
“I will leave this without an answer,” Peskov told reporters. Trump had tweeted on Thursday: “Yesterday, on the same day-I had meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the FM of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin. #LetsMakePeace!”.
Earlier, Vladimir Omelyan, the head of the Ukrainian Ministry for Infrastructure, stated that Russia should return not only the Crimea and the eastern regions of Ukraine, but also the the south of Russia to Ukraine.
According to Omelyan, Ukraine will restore air communication with Russia only after the latter returns the above-mentioned territories to Kiev, the Ukrainian official said in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have launched as many as 1 000 mines and shells at the People’s Republic of Luhansk in over a week, having thus violated a mutual truce 50 times in seven days.
The contact group for Ukraine had agreed to cease fire on April 1, after which both sides announced violations almost immediately.
According to official representative for the People’s Militia of the People’s Republic of Luhansk, Andrei Marochko, Ukraine used various types of weapons to attack the breakaway republic, including ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft systems, BMP-2 vehicles and 120-mm mortar shells prohibited by the Minsk agreements.
“The units of the People’s Militia strictly observe the Minsk Accords, nor do they react to provocations from Ukraine,” Marochko told Russian newspaper Pravda.
Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavel Klimkin, met with Vice President Mike Pence, who urged Ukraine to uphold its commitment to the Minsk peace agreement. According to Pence, this is the “most viable” path towards peace in Ukraine.
The White House had previously condemned Russia for its occupation of Crimea, the eastern part of Ukraine, and has suggested that Moscow should return the territory to Ukraine.
The Kremlin has dismissed the possibility of returning the peninsula and has moved forward with a number of infrastructure projects that would further connect Crimea with the Russian mainland.
On April 23rd, a US citizen working for the OSCE’s monitoring mission was killed, and his death was immediately used as a pretext for Ukrainian President Poroshenko to call US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and demand direct US intervention against Donbass “separatists” who were alleged – contrary to the principle of presuming innocence until proving guilty – to have been responsible the American’s death.
Unless the UN’s Blue Helmets come to his rescue, Poroshenko would otherwise be incapable of winning the conflict against the Donbass republics, and thus hopes to internationalise the war.
But deploying peacekeepers to Donbass contradicts the basic principles of the Minsk process, as Russia has repeatedly stated.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov said during an interview with Mir Interstate Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, this week that dictates from Brussels and by extension, Washington, have precluded stronger economic and security ties between Russia and Europe.
He urged Europe to break free from the minority of hardliners who are working to divide Europe and Russia. “There are forces that are categorically against normalising relations with Russia and also those who call for breaking out of the sanctions dead-end already now,” he said.
Lavrov said Russia is not a pupil of the West: “We hope that Europe will see that the era of a master-pupil relationship is long over.”
Both the DPR and LPR have suffered huge losses in the conflict. Official UN figures suggest 9 470 killed on both sides, including also Ukrainian soldiers and Donbass civilians.
But these figures, as well as the official Ukrainian casualty count for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, National Guard, and other security agencies, have been understated. In early February 2015, an anonymous source in German intelligence revealed that as many as 50 000 people have been killed in Donbass.