Putin denies Russian Federation is provoking Ukraine with rebel passports move

Viktor Medvedchuk

Viktor Medvedchuk

"Crimea is Ukraine. Donetsk is Ukraine. That's odd", Putin said.

According to Yelchenko, this is nothing else but an artificial pretext to continue sending Russian troops to Ukraine and sustain the undisguised military aggression against Ukraine. "I don't see anything unusual here".

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order simplifying the procedure for obtaining a Russian passport for residents of eastern Ukraine's rebellious regions, prompting calls from Kiev for more worldwide sanctions.

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The United Nations Security Council met to discuss the issue on Thursday at the request of Ukraine.

Ukraine's outgoing President Petro Poroshenko also slammed the decision, calling it "Russia's unprecedented interference in the internal affairs of an independent state".

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has congratulated Volodymyr Zelensky on his victory in the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine and said he was looking forward to working with the future head of state to further deepen Ukrainian-Austrian relations.

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Rebellions broke out against Ukrainian government rule in east Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014 shortly after a pro-Russian president was toppled in Kiev in a popular revolt. A ceasefire signed in 2015 ended major combat but deadly clashes still occur regularly.

"We think right now the emphasis should be on a renewed effort to implement the Minsk agreement and to bring peace to the people that are suffering under this crisis", German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen told reporters after the meeting. Both sides accuse each other of violating the agreements.

Briefing for the OSCE, alongside the Chief Monitor of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Ertugrul Apakan, Special Representative Martin Sajdik, said that a "deepening divide" between parts of the east and the rest of Ukraine, was making the task of unifying the country harder, with different currency being used, and increasingly difficult journeys across the contact line.

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