Putin speaks to Ukraine's separatist leaders

2017-11-16 21:07
President Vladimir Putin of Russia. (AP)

President Vladimir Putin of Russia. (AP)

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Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken to eastern Ukraine's rebel leaders to discuss a prisoner swap, his first publicly acknowledged direct contact with the two pro-Russian separatist republics.

The Kremlin said that Putin spoke by telephone to Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Igor Plotnitsky, the head of the Lugansk People's Republic.

The entities, located in Ukraine's Donetsk and Lugansk regions, declared independence from Kiev following Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014, launching a war which has lasted to this day, killing more than 10 000 people.

Weapons across the border

His apparent willingness and ability to intervene will add fuel to western government statements that Putin has been heavily involved in orchestrating events in eastern Ukraine.

In the early stages of the conflict, Russia repeatedly denied sending soldiers or weapons across the border but Putin has since admitted some Russian military personnel travelled to fight.

"The President has never hidden the fact that he is able to make appeals, able to exert a certain influence - not unlimited influence," in the self-proclaimed republics, said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

But Putin was unable to direct events in the regions because "these are republics, which have their own independent existence," Peskov added.

Read more on:    vladimir putin  |  russia  |  ukraine

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