Kremlin Denies Eyeing Territorial Claims After Putin’s Comments In Documentary

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(Article text ©2020 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – MOSCOW, June 22, 2020 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/kremlin-denies-eyeing-territorial-claims-after-putin-s-comments-in-documentary/30684797.html)

The Kremlin has denied it has any territorial claims on former Soviet republics after President Vladimir Putin appeared to question the redrawn borders of Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

“No, Russia does not have territorial claims against its neighbors,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on June 22.

Peskov was responding to a question about Putin’s statement during the documentary “Russia. Kremlin. Putin.” that some republics were able to leave the Soviet Union with “gifts” during the country’s disintegration in 1991.

In the documentary, which aired on June 21, Putin did not say exactly which of 14 republics other than the Russian Federation “took” what he called “Russia’s traditionally historic territories,” stressing that “when the Soviet Union was created, the right to quit the Union was written in the agreement, but the procedure was not outlined.”

Putin also said that Moscow’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 was “a democratic choice of the peninsula’s population.”

“Crimea has always been ours. Even from the judicial point of view,” Putin said.

Russia’s takeover of Crimea in February-March 2014 and subsequent support of pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed some 13,200 people have strained Moscow-Kyiv relations, sparking concerns among other former Soviet republics, especially Belarus and Kazakhstan, which have long borders with Russia and a significant ethnic-Russian population residing in the areas close to the borders.

“[Putin] talked about previous systemic mistakes in the constitution that failed to envision a whole number of situations, developments which could have negative consequences for our state,” Peskov said, though he refused to comment on Putin’s use of the phrase “gifts.”