missile donbass village
© Sputnik / Valeriy Melnikov
A woman shows a fragment of a mortar projectile in the village of Zaytsevo, Donetsk People’s Republic. Last month, the DPR’s Ministry of Emergency Situations declared that demining Donbass would take decades.
The Russian president has repeatedly charged Kiev with carrying out "genocidal" policies against the people of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. In his February 24 speech announcing the start of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, he said it had become "impossible to tolerate" any longer the "humiliation and genocide" of the Donbass.

The Ukrainian authorities isolated the Donbass and carried out a genocide of its inhabitants, but Russia will do everything it can to help the people of the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

"People there for a long time, for eight years, found themselves between heaven and earth. Do you see the problem? They didn't have any passports, neither Ukrainian nor Russian. They couldn't even buy plane tickets to travel across Russia...They couldn't send their children to study even to Russian schools due to quotas. So ties with Ukraine were cut off, but weren't built up with Russia. And I'm not even talking about shelling, etc.," Putin said, speaking with winners of the 'Leaders of Russia' managerial contest on Thursday.

"This is isolation and genocide, if we keep in mind the military pressure applied over eight years," Putin said.

"Russia and the Russian government, the country's leadership will do everything to help the people who live and work there," Putin added.

"I know some of you, perhaps many of you are involved in volunteering activities, and that during the pandemic helped doctors cope with the virus. Now, some of you are involved in helping the residents of the Donbass. I want to thank you for this. It is important, especially now, to show composure and solidarity," he said.

Russia kicked off a military 'special operation' in February to 'demilitarize and denazify' Ukraine after months of escalating tensions and concerns that Kiev could start a renewed offensive to crush the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics by force.

The Ukrainian crisis began in February of 2014, when the country's government was overthrown in a US- and EU-sponsored coup d'etat, which led Crimea to break off from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, and sparked uprisings across Ukraine's southeast. Kiev's efforts to put down armed revolts in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk sparked a civil war. Russia, France and Germany attempted to push Kiev to implement the so-called Minsk Accords peace plan in 2015, which would have granted the breakaways' autonomy in exchange for their return to Ukraine. Successive governments in Kiev rejected the plans.