TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Joint news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (excerpt re Ukraine)

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Kremlin.ru – February 2, 2017)

Question: I have a question about Ukraine.

Mr President, your position on the conflict in Donbass is known. I would like you to clarify the following: why did this flare-up occur at this particular moment?

Since we are in Hungary, I would like to ask Mr Orban the following question: What do you think about the situation in Ukraine, especially since there is a Hungarian minority residing in Transcarpathia? Can you influence Kiev in any way, so that there is no discrimination against the Hungarian population?

Vladimir Putin: With regard to the current flare-up, we stated that it is already happening. Our position is, in fact, known: it was provoked by the Ukrainian side. Actual fighting began last Friday. On Sunday, the so-called Ukrainian voluntary units captured an opposition stronghold and moved 200 metres into the territory controlled by the militias. On Sunday, they were driven out of there.

Why is this happening now? I believe there are several reasons for that. First, the Ukrainian leadership needs money, and the best way to drum up some money is to go to the European Union, individual countries of Europe, the United States, or international financial institutions, posing as a victim of aggression. This is my first point.

Second, as we all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favour of one candidate. More than that, certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate, or female candidate, to be more precise. Now they need to improve relations with the current administration, and using a conflict to do so is always a better, easier way to draw the incumbent administration into addressing Ukrainian problems and thus establish a dialogue.

The third reason is related to domestic politics. In the wake of the utter failure of economic and social policies, the internal opposition has stepped up its activities and needs to be shut up. It is also necessary to rally the people around the current leaders. This issue can also be resolved more easily if the conflict resumes.

There is another consideration. I think that the current Ukrainian government is not at all willing to implement the Minsk agreements and is just looking for an excuse not to do so. The resumption of the conflict would serve that purpose. I very much hope that sensible people in Ukraine, as well as those who are interested in addressing such issues through political means, will not allow the situation in southeastern Ukraine to follow the worst-case scenario, but will instead concentrate all their attention and efforts on complying with the Minsk agreements.