This was stated in response to Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of the pro-Russian public movement “Ukrainian Choice – the right of the People”.
This is the first official announcement of direct talks between the Russian leader and the leadership of both Donbass republics. Medvedchuk and Putin spoke during their combined visit to Istra, exploring the New Jerusalem Monastery.
According to Medvedchuk, Ukraine is ready to exchange 306 prisoners for 74 people captured by the forces of the Donbass, and they would like to do this before Christmas and New Year. Medvedchuk asked Putin to address the heads of the republics, Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, to bring this exchange to fruition.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who was also present at the conversation, asked Putin to support Medvedchuk’s appeal.
“I will do everything that depends on me. I will talk with the leadership of the Donetsk republic and the Lugansk republic. I hope that what you are proposing will be realized, and as soon as possible,” Putin replied.
Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Alexander Zakharchenko stated that the initiative to exchange prisoners in Donbass fully corresponds to the principles supported by the republic, his press service said in a statement published on the Donetsk News Agency’s website.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov also dismissed foreign media speculations about 20 000 UN peacekeepers in Donbass. “These reports have nothing to do with reality,” Peskov told the Russian news agency TASS.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May meanwhile, has launched a vitriolic attack on the Russian President during a major policy speech in the City of London.May is struggling to remain in power as her failure to steer Brexit is becoming obvious.
May pledged to “face Russian threats to the international order”. In her foreign policy address at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, she said: “The UK will remain unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security […] in the face of those who seek to undermine them.
“Chief among those today, of course, is Russia. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.
“Since then, Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbass, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber-espionage and disruption.”
She also accused Moscow of “deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions”.
But Mark Galeotti, senior researcher and head of the Centre for European Security at the Institute of International Relations Prague, believes that such remarks were “framed in alarmist terms”.
He said Russia was not a direct military threat to Europe. “When I talk to people I know in the Russian military, there is a degree of exasperation about how the West is alarmist about Russian intent and capacity,” he told Deutsche Welle.