TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Joint press conference with Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras [excerpt re: Ukraine]

Ancient Temple Ruins in Greece with Tourists

(Kremlin.ru – May 27, 2016)

Following the Russian-Greek talks, Vladimir Putin and Alexis Tsipras made a joint statement for the press. [excerpt re: Ukraine]

Question: The European Union is currently debating the issue of extending sanctions against Russia. How much was this topic discussed at your talks today?

Do you think the exchange of Savchenko for our guys will have a positive effect on the issue? If I am not mistaken, the G7’s final declaration makes lifting the sanctions contingent on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

And I beg your pardon, I can’t help asking. What do you think of Poroshenko’s statement that if he has managed to bring back Savchenko, he will also bring back Crimea and Donbass?

Vladimir Putin: The first question is about the sanctions. This is not our issue, as we did not impose the sanctions. We took retaliatory measures. As soon as our partners reverse the decisions they took, cancel restrictions against Russia, we will promptly make a similar gesture, a similar step regarding our European partners.

As to Savchenko’s exchange, return and pardon, we discussed this issue with President Poroshenko a fairly long time ago. Our first objective was to return two Russian nationals convicted by a Ukrainian court and serving a sentence in a Ukrainian penitentiary. That’s number one.

Second. I could not have taken this decision without knowing the opinion on this issue of our killed journalists’ families. President Poroshenko’s envoy Viktor Medvedchuk met with them. After he met with the relatives of our killed journalists, the widow and the sister (the closest relative of one of the victims) wrote to me with a request to pardon Savchenko.

Actually, this was the key, the most crucial aspect. It has nothing to do with the Minsk Agreements because they speak of persons detained in Donbass and in Ukraine after they were removed from Donbass. However, we are also actively engaged in that, by the way, through the mediation of Mr Medvedchuk.

Much has been done, but a great deal still remains, and I hope it will all be completed. I personally think that this work should be completed, and all the people who are being detained by the Ukrainian side and by the Donbass side should be released. However, let me repeat, this is a difficult process involving reciprocal claims and finding out who is being detained where and why.

Regarding the return of Donbas or, as you said, Crimea. The issue of Donbass may be settled, and Mr Prime Minister has mentioned this now, exclusively under the Minsk Agreements, which have a political component as the key.

First. Amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution should be made in accordance with the Minsk Agreements. They have to do with decentralisation, as they like to say in Ukraine. By the way, the Greek experience could be used in this respect. The current President here used to be a Minister of Decentralisation, he was Minister of the Interior and Decentralisation. They used to ponder the issue here, in Greece.

Second. A law on amnesty should be passed. How can elections be held, how can people be re-integrated into state structures, the state, if they are prosecuted? This is also stipulated in the Minsk Agreements.

Finally, a law should be enacted on the special status of Donbass. These decisions should not be put off under the pretext that someone is shooting at someone in the delimitation zone. If there is no will to pursue political change, there will always be someone to fire a shot, and someone to return it. This will go on infinitely until political decisions are made. A law on elections should be passed, of course, and the elections should be supervised by the OSCE.

As for Crimea, we believe the issue has been closed for good. This is a historical decision of the people living in Crimea, and Russia will never discuss the issue with anyone. A Russian saying comes to mind, God grant, your calf would eat up our wolf. So let us not come back to the issue again.

[featured image is file photo, not directly related to article subject matter]