Putin
© Sputnik
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Russia's business ombudsman Boris Titov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.
Russia's president has claimed that much of Ukraine is historically and ethnically Russian, and Kiev's turn to the West since the 2014 Kiev Maidan amounts to a rejection of its deep ties with Moscow and its political reality.

In an article published on the Kremlin's website on Monday, President Vladimir Putin described how almost all of the Eastern European nation had fallen under the Russian Empire, and how Ukrainians and Russians can trace their culture and history back through shared roots.

"Thus," he argued, "modern Ukraine is entirely the brainchild of the Soviet era. We know and remember that, to a large extent, it was created at the expense of historical Russia." According to him, "the Bolsheviks treated the Russian people as an inexhaustible material for social experiments. They dreamed of a world revolution, which, in their opinion, would abolish nation-states altogether." As such, Putin argued, Russia's "borders were arbitrarily cut, and generous territorial 'gifts' were handed out."

The status of the disputed Crimean peninsula, for example, has been a key point of contention between Moscow and Kiev. Ethnically dominated by Russians, it was historically administered from Moscow until 1954, when it was signed over by then-Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev, in what amounted to a technicality given the lack of internal borders in the USSR. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Crimea was governed from Kiev until it was reabsorbed by Russia in 2014.

According to Putin, the shared interests of both the Russian and Ukrainian people were ignored by those behind the 2014 Maidan and those supporting the uprising from abroad. "Western countries directly intervened in the internal affairs of Ukraine and supported the coup," he said. "It was dominated by radical nationalist groups. Their slogans, ideology [and] open aggressive Russophobia in many ways began to determine the state policy in Ukraine."

The president went on to criticize a new bill being considered by politicians in Ukraine, which would deny ethnic Russians, who trace their presence in the region back centuries, the right to be considered 'indigenous people' in the country. "The most disgusting thing is that Russians in Ukraine are forced not only to renounce their roots, from generations of ancestors, but also to believe that Russia is their enemy," he said.

"It is no exaggeration to say that the policy of forced assimilation and the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressively disposed to Russia, in its effects is comparable with the use of weapons of mass destruction against us," Putin wrote.

However, while lamenting the tense state of affairs between Moscow and Kiev, the Russian president backed Ukrainians' right to self-determination. He said there are many reasons why a country would choose to go its own way as a separate nation.

"How should we handle this?" Putin asked. "There can only be one answer: with respect!"

"We respect the Ukrainian language and traditions," he continued, "and the desire of Ukrainians to see their state free, safe and prosperous."

The president added that "Russia has never been and will never be 'anti-Ukraine.' And what Ukraine should be - that is up to its citizens to decide."

Putin says Ukrainian reunification with Donbass now nearly lost cause, as Kiev prefers to play the 'victim', not to work for peace

Donbass
© Sputnik / John Trust
Debaltsevo, Donbass
However, Putin said, the implications of ongoing disputes within the Eastern European nation were catastrophic. "According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the total number of victims associated with the conflict in Donbass has exceeded 13,000 people," he said. "Among them are elderly people and children. Terrible, irreparable losses."

"Russia did everything to stop fratricide," he went on, arguing that Moscow sees no other way out of the bitter dispute than for Kiev to honor the Minsk Agreements that were intended to provide a roadmap to ending the conflict. However, he said, talks with Ukrainian officials have fallen flat because "they prefer to exploit the image of a 'victim of external aggression' and trade in Russophobia."

Insisting that Kiev is using the conflict to its advantage in dealing with the West, Putin also claimed that "they arrange bloody provocations in the Donbass" and, "in a word, are trying to attract the attention of their external patrons and masters by any means necessary."

"I am more and more convinced that Kiev simply does not need Donbass," the president went on. "Why? Because, firstly, the inhabitants of these regions will never accept the rule they are trying to impose by force, blockades and threats." In addition, he said, the Minsk protocols could be readily implemented but, in his words, "contradict the whole logic of the anti-Russia project" and would undermine "the constant cultivation of the image of an internal and external enemy."

Fighting between Kiev's forces and those loyal to the two breakaway self-proclaimed Donbass Republics has escalated in recent months, with a number of civilian casualties reported. A tense standoff between Ukrainian forces and Russian soldiers across the frontier sparked concerns of an all-out conflict earlier this year, until Moscow announced that its units would be redeployed and that readiness exercises had been concluded.

Last month, Putin said that he saw little point in meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to discuss the situation in the east of Ukraine given, he alleged, that much of the country's policies were imposed from abroad.

"Why should I meet Zelensky?" the Russian leader asked. "If he has given up his country to full external control, the key issues about life in Ukraine are resolved not in Kiev but in Washington, and, to some extent, in Berlin and Paris. What then would we talk about?"