Russian President Vladimir Putin has ruled out war with Ukraine, saying he supports the Minsk ceasefire deal as the best way to stabilize the country’s eastern region.
“I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen,” Putin told an interview on Russian television.
Putin said that if the Minsk agreement is implemented, eastern Ukraine would “gradually stabilise”, BBC News reported.
“Europe is just as interested in that as Russia. No one wants conflict on the edge of Europe, especially armed conflict,” he said.
Putin said the Minsk deal had become an “international legal document” after the United Nations Security Council approved a Russian-drafted resolution endorsing it.
Last week, the deal looked in danger of collapsing when rebels captured the strategically important transport hub of Debaltseve.
Both sides have two weeks under the terms of the Minsk deal to pull artillery and tanks out of striking distance.
They agreed at the weekend to begin withdrawing heavy weapons shortly.
But on Monday, the Ukrainian military said rebels had not stopped firing and that it was therefore unable to withdraw heavy weapons.
The rebels, however, were not expected to begin their pullback until after Russia’s Defenders of the Fatherland Day, that they were observing on Monday.
Rebels in the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk have seen less intense fighting than before, BBC News said, citing its own reporter.
Fighting began in eastern Ukraine in April, a month after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula.
Nearly 5,700 people have died and at least 1.25 million have fled their homes since the conflict began early last year.
The Ukrainian government, Western leaders and NATO say there is clear evidence Russia is helping the rebels with heavy weapons and soldiers.
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