Ukraine Day 968: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the nearest thing to date to an admission that Russian troops invaded the Donbass.
Speaking during a marathon live call-in session today, Putin was asked about the deterioration of relations between Russia and the United States, and the barriers to the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements.
BFM.ru reports that Putin responded that Russia wanted to have friendly relations, but the US had instigated a “coup” in Ukraine.
“You just mentioned the crisis in Ukraine, but it was not us who brought about the state coup. Did we do that? No. Our American partners don’t hide the fact that they supported it to a great degree, they financed the radical opposition and pushed through a change of government by unconstitutional means, despite the fact that this could have been done completely differently. Former President Yanukovych signed off on all of their demands and was prepared to hold early elections, instead of this they helped facilitate a coup. Why?
When we were forced, I want to stress, forced to defend the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass, forced to respond to the desire of the people living in Crimea to return to being part of the Russian Federation, they instantly began to whip up anti-Russian policies and the imposition of sanctions.”
Despite overwhelming evidence the contrary, Russia has always denied that Russian troops were deployed to the Donbass, or even that separatist militants received Russian weaponry and support.
In December last year, Putin said that Russians had been present in Ukraine “involved in solving specific issues, including in the military sphere. But this doesn’t mean that Russian regular troops are present there, feel the difference.”
The Ukrainian military reports that Russia-backed forces conducted 44 attacks in the Donbass yesterday. Four Ukrainian servicemen were wounded.
According to Colonel Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, another two soldiers suffered concussions as a result of shelling.
This morning, there were reports of further heavy shelling east of Mariupol.
Mariupol.tv cited Ukrainian volunteer Galina Odnorog as saying that Russia-backed forces began shelling the government-controlled seaside village of Shirokino at 10:00 today with 152 mm self-propelled artillery.
Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight wounded in this same area on Monday morning.
Shelling was also reported in the Avdeyevka area, northeast of Donetsk, this afternoon.
Meanwhile in Russian-occupied Crimea, the occupying authorities conducted raids and detained several Crimean Tatars.
RFE/RL’s Crimean Service reported that raids were conducted by masked security personnel in the villages of Strogonovka and Kamenka, this morning.
Nariman Dzhelalov, deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the representative body of the occupied peninsula’s indigenous people which has been officially banned by the Russians, wrote on Facebook that he and three other Mejlis members had been summoned to by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) for questioning with regards to the case against Ilmi Umerov.