Ukraine crisis: Putin calls for 'statehood' talks and warns Russia will not stand aside while people shot 'point blank'
Russian president says discussion is needed to uphold interests of local people
The Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a discussion on the 'statehood' of eastern Ukraine, Russian media has reported.
Speaking to the national TV network Channel 1, Mr Putin urged talks on a political solution to the crisis that are aimed at "safeguarding the legitimate interests of those people who live there".
He has previously called for talks between the central government and the separatist rebels in the east, which Ukrainian forces have been fighting since April.
The Russian President's use of the word 'statehood' comes after he recently referred to regions in eastern Ukraine as "Novorossiya" (New Russia).
However, his spokesman said this did not mean Moscow now endorsed rebel calls for independence for territory they have seized.
Mr Putin also warned it is “impossible to tell” when the protracted conflict will end.
He was quoted by the Russian Itar Tass agency as saying the end of the crisis "largely depends on the political will of current Ukrainian authorities."
"It must be borne in mind that Russia cannot stand aside when people are being shot at almost at point blank," he added.
On Saturday, European leaders considering fresh sanctions against Moscow said Russia was practically in a “state of war” against Europe.
The threat of deeper sanctions was dismissed by Mr Putin, who accused the the EU of "backing a coup d'etat" in Ukraine.
Kiev and the West say Russia has assisted rebels throughout the conflict, a claim Moscow has consistently denied. Fighting escalated after Russia formally annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March, and has claimed the lives of over 2,600 people to date.
It comes as Ukrainian volunteer troops claimed dozens of men were killed when pro-Russian forces reneged on an agreed window of time to allow surrendering troops to withdraw from a town seized by rebels.
READ MORE: Ukraine crisis: Is this what Ukrainians really think of Putin?
Comment: Nato is at a crossroads
Troops had attempted to leave the town of Ilovaisk, which has been encircled by rebels for more than ten days, on Saturday.
Ukrainian troops who escaped the encirclement claimed pro-Russian separatists fired on them “from all sides”, one soldier told the Associated Press, killing dozens.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops and local residents were reinforcing the port of Mariupol on Sunday, the next big city in the path of pro-Russian fighters who pushed back government forces along the Azov Sea this past week in an offensive on a new front.
- 1 David Cameron refers to 83-year-old Labour MP Dennis Skinner as 'Jurassic Park'
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Optical illusion turns blue demon into brunette
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal will donate entire $32bn fortune to charity
Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal will donate entire $32bn fortune to charity
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece debt crisis: Country on course to hold EU referendum as eurozone leaders reject new bailout request
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
Tunisia beach attack: How can British Muslims respond to the latest outrages?
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...
£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...