June 6, 2015 / 3:08 AM / 2 years ago

Putin tells Italian paper Russia backs Ukraine peace deal

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia fully backs the Minsk peace agreements in Ukraine, but progress is being stalled by Kiev, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday.

A tattered Ukrainian national flag flutters in the wind at a position held by the Ukrainian armed forces near the town of Maryinka, eastern Ukraine, June 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

“Russia is interested in and will strive to ensure the full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Agreements,” he said, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin, calling the February deal “right, just and feasible”.

His comments came a few days after the most serious outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine since February’s ceasefire, which has cast doubt on the durability of the peace deal.

Putin said that large-scale hostilities in eastern Ukraine had on the whole ceased and a pull-back of heavy weapons implemented, despite occasional shooting and casualties.

“It is time to begin implementing the Minsk Agreements,” he said, referring to clauses requiring constitutional reform to ensure autonomy for the rebel regions in eastern Ukraine, a law on municipal elections there and a law on amnesty in co-ordination with the regions’ authorities.

“The problem is that the current Kiev authorities don’t even want to sit down to talks with them. And there is nothing we can do about it,” he said. “Only our European and American partners can influence this situation.”

Putin also said that Kiev’s cutting off of economic ties with the rebel territories was causing a humanitarian disaster, and said the European Union should fulfill its obligations to restore the banking system in the region.

He added: “Since we are talking about what can or must be done, and by whom, I believe that the European Union could surely provide greater financial assistance to Ukraine.”

Reporting by Jason Bush; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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