Russian President Vladimir Putin rejects the “apocalyptic scenario” of war with Ukraine, amid continued reports of a crumbling ceasefire.
Speaking to Russian state TV, President Vladimir Putin said the “choice” made by Crimea to become independent should be respected by the west.
And when asked whether he thought war with Ukraine would occur, he said: “I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen.”
Commenting on Crimea, which Russia annexed nearly one year ago, Putin added: “People who live in Crimea made their choice. It should be treated respectfully, and Russia cannot treat it in any other way.
“And I hope that our partners abroad, close and far away, will also eventually treat it the same way, because only the opinion of the people themselves can be the highest criteria of truth in this case.”
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko recently accused a top aide to the Kremlin of being behind the sniper killings of 100 Ukrainian protesters on the streets of Kiev during the uprising a year ago.
Putin said claims by the Ukrainian government of Russian involvement in the killings on Independence Square were “complete nonsense”.
“Sometimes I am simply amazed at the public statements of the Ukrainian government, for instance, that the members of our administration took part in the tragic events on the Maidan a year ago,” he said.
“It is absolute, complete nonsense, so far from reality that one is amazed where it comes from.”
The reported shooting came closer to killing off the truce, which was intended to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people.
Rebels ignored the agreed ceasefire last week to capture the strategic town of Debaltseve in a punishing defeat for Kiev.
Western countries still hope the truce can be salvaged if the rebels halt, now that they achieved their objective at Debaltseve last week.
Putin said there was no need for another Minsk meeting on Ukraine, adding the deal already reached was the right way to resolve the crisis.
“The Minsk agreements remained not only the document that had been worked out by the four members of this Minsk process, I mean Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.
“They [the agreements] have been fixed in the resolution of the United Nations Security Council and took the form of an international statute, supported practically by the whole of international society.
“I really hope this will be fulfilled. And if it is fulfilled, then this is the right path towards normalisation of the situation in this area of the country,” he added.
Kiev fears recent unrest in the east could spread to other parts of the mainly Russian-speaking region.
Most residents are loyal to Ukraine but violent separatist demonstrations have occasionally flared in the past year.