What Putin Said About Ukraine and Donbass During the “Direct Line”

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On June 7 Vladimir Putin did a 4-hour “direct line” during which he answered the questions of the residents of Russia – and not only: also Crimeans and refugees from Donbass communicated with the head of the Kremlin.

Considering that it was communication with inhabitants, and not journalists, the Russian president devoted the lion’s share of broadcasting time to domestic policy. But he also mentioned the international agenda, and made several statements about Ukraine.

They concerned the aggravation in Donbass, the Minsk Agreements, simplification of obtaining Russian nationality, and the director Oleg Sentsov.

“Strana” collected all the statements of Putin about Ukraine.

“Serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood”

The Ukrainian topic began with the Russian president being called live on air by the writer Zakhar Prilepin, who now fights on the side of the DPR. He told Putin that the situation became aggravated, and that the Ukrainian army prepares for an offensive.

The head of the Kremlin answered unexpectedly sharply and unambiguously:

“I hope it will not reach the point of such provocations. And if this happens, I think it will have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood as a whole. Once again, to emphasise, I expect that nothing like this will happen. It is impossible to intimidate people who live in these areas in Donbass, in the Lugansk People’s Republic, in the Donetsk People’s Republic. We provide assistance to both unrecognised republics and will continue to do so”.

The Russian president also declared that the OSCE SMM recorded an increase in the number of attacks of the UAF.

“Now, the OSCE representatives have recorded an increase in these attacks by the Ukrainian forces. Why do this, when you just need to observe the Minsk Agreements? This is simply ridiculous considering the expected result – restoring the country’s territorial integrity. The longer and the further this goes the worse for Ukraine,” said Putin.

In Ukraine many apprehended this statement as almost a direct threat of military intervention if the UAF indeed decides to attack.

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“Voters from these territories aren’t needed”

Putin connected the aggravation in the region with pre-election fever in Ukraine. In his opinion, the Ukrainian authorities kindles the conflict in order to not return the territories with an anti-maidan adjusted electorate into the legal framework of Ukraine.

“Sometimes it seems to me that the situation is deteriorating as Ukraine enters a new political cycle including the upcoming Rada and presidential elections. I would like to stress this again: the current Ukrainian authorities, especially in these circumstances, are unable to resolve the LPR and DPR problem, partly because they do not need voters from these regions, because it is clear that they would never vote for the current government. However, if the authorities are guided by their narrow political and economic interests, if they continue to rob their people and save their money in offshore accounts in case things go bad, noting good will ever come of it”.

To simplify issuing Russian passports to the inhabitants of Donbass

Answering the question about refugees from Donbass, Putin stated the need to pursue the liberalisation of the acquisition of Russian citizenship and set the task to the Interior Minister to regulate matters concerning the employment of refugees.

“This is a big tragedy, the tragedy of Ukraine, of the Ukrainian people and our compatriots. … I consider Ukrainians and Russians to be practically the same people, … and it is awkward for me to hear that there is still a problem with employment,” stated Putin, having added that he already communicated with representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the migratory service concerning this topic.

“I will try to do things so that in your case the problem is solved. We must opt to liberalise everything that is connected to the sphere of the acquisition of Russian nationality. This has both a humanitarian and a democratic aspect,” said the head of state, having noted that Russia faces a demographic problem connected to a reduction in the number of women of a childbearing age in the country.

“One of the few solutions to this problem for Russia is attracting our compatriots to Russia. Of course, first of all, this is about people regardless of nationalities and religious affiliation, but it mainly about people who consider themselves to be connected to the Russian world by blood, knowing the Russian language, and who are interested in working in our country and have the corresponding competence.

That’s why in this sphere serious cardinal measures have to be taken taking into account, of course, absolutely precisely the interests of the citizens of the Russian Federation living in these or those regions – I mean the situation in the labor market,” said the Russian President.

According to him, the liberalisation of obtaining nationality “first of all concerns Ukrainian citizens wherever and whenever they live”.

“Haven’t yet thought about Sentsov’s release”

Putin also commented on the possibility of swapping the Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov – sentenced in the Russian Federation to 20 years in prison – for the editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti Ukraine Kirill Vyshinsky, arrested in Kherson.

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According to him, Vyshinsky was arrested because he is a journalist.

“As for another individual in question, Mr. [Oleg] Sentsov, he had been detained in Crimea, and by the way- not for his journalistic activities, but for plotting a terrorist act, preparing an explosion, which could hurt specific people.These are completely different things we’re talking about. They are different and incomparable. Therefore, we have not yet thought about it,” said Putin, answering the question.

“I hope that we will achieve the release of the Russian journalist, including under the pressure of the international organisations that the Ukrainian authorities today depend on one way or another,” said Putin.

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