Putin Hints at Rapprochement With Ukraine on Eve of Vote

(Bloomberg News/TNS) -
putin ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Ukrainian tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Virtually on the eve of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, the Kremlin released comments by President Vladimir Putin saying that the two countries will mend ties despite their five-year conflict.

President Putin went as far as to say that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. “We have many things in common, we can use this as our competitive advantage during some form of integration,” Putin said, according to the transcript of a June 19 interview with American film director Oliver Stone. “Rapprochement is inevitable.”

Ties between the former allies deteriorated after protesters in Kiev unseated the country’s Kremlin-backed leader in 2014 and Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea before fomenting a war in which he still denies involvement. A party backed by Ukrainian businessman Viktor Medvedchuk, whose daughter counts Putin as her godfather, is campaigning for the Sunday elections, and he met with Putin on Thursday to discuss potential cooperation.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian elected in April, entered into his first negotiations with Putin earlier this month as he seeks to diffuse the conflict and negotiate the release of 24 Ukrainian sailors detained by Russia in 2018.

Speaking about another election, Putin said it was “nonsense” to assume that comments by Russians on social networks could have influenced the result of the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

“No matter what our bloggers – or whoever’s job it is to comment on the internet – might say about the situation in the U.S., this could not have played a decisive role,” he said. But Russia’s “sympathies” were with Donald Trump “because he said he wanted to restore normal relations with Russia,” Putin said.