MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday his country will do everything possible to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, during a meeting with parliament members in the autonomous peninsula of Crimea that Russia annexed from Ukraine in March.
“We will do all that depends on us to end this conflict as soon as possible,” Putin said during a ceremony in the port of Yalta, as reported by the Russian agencies.
Putin stressed that Ukraine “has been plunged into a bloody mess in a fratricidal conflict” and “eastern Ukraine has been witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“They have killed thousands of people, hundreds of thousands have become refugees and have literally lost everything,” Putin said, referring to the situation in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where fierce clashes between Government forces and pro-Russian separatists have been taking place.
His statements came as Russia sent a convoy of more than 200 trucks with humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine, to help the population of the besieged cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, where residents have been without power and water for two weeks.
The humanitarian convoy, which some leaders in Kiev regard as a pretext for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine, is headed for the Ukrainian border but it was not known when and where it will be able to cross.
Russia has been under international sanctions for the past months over its alleged support for the separatist rebels.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has described Putin’s visit to Crimea as “unacceptable.”
Most of the residents in Crimea supported the Russian annexation in a referendum held after the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in February.
The ouster of pro-Russian Yanukovich in the wake of demonstrations against his decision to postpone an agreement with the European Union prompted the population of Russian origin to rebel in Crimea, in the south, and to proclaim independent republics in Donetsk and Lugansk, in the east.
Crimea, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, had been given as a gift in 1954 to the then Soviet republic of Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev.