Ukraine must talk to rebels: Putin

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Copy of iol puc wld _UKRAINE-CRISIS-COMBAT_ Reuters File photo: Maks Levin.

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin insisted Friday that Kiev must enter substantial talks with pro-Russian rebels amid a dramatic escalation of the fighting in Ukraine.

“It is necessary to make the Ukrainian authorities start substantial talks,” he told youths at a pro-Kremlin summer camp in central Russia.

“It is necessary to hold substantial, meaningful talks, to understand what rights the people of Donbass, Lugansk, the entire southeast of the country will have,” Putin said in televised remarks.

“It is important to agree on substance. They don't want to speak on substance, that is the problem.”

Putin spoke after Kiev and the West said that Russian regular troops were on the ground in Ukraine, fighting alongside ragtag formations of pro-Russian separatists.

Russia has repeatedly denied the claim.

Putin was scathing about Western support for Kiev, saying they had supported ultranationalist forces in a coup and their position now was not to enter peace talks but to give Ukrainian forces “a little time to shoot”.

Putin on Friday reiterated his earlier claim that Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian authorities have ended up in the ex-Soviet country by mistake, charging the border has not been marked properly.

He spoke after addressing pro-Russian separatists in a late-night statement which pointedly called them “rebels of Novorossiya” (New Russia), a Tsarist-era term for Moscow's former imperial holdings in the region.

Putin's first mention of Novorossiya came on April 17 earlier this year in a direct speech with the Russian people

“These territories were given to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. Why? Who knows,” Putin said at the time.

Some experts said Putin's late-night statement indicated that the Russian president is seeking to carve out a Moscow-controlled statelet on the fringes of Ukraine.

Indications in recent days hint that regular Russian troops have been sent to fight in Ukraine.

“I believe that what is happening in Ukraine right now is in principle our common colossal tragedy and it is necessary to do everything for it to stop as soon as possible,” Putin said on Friday.


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