Putin defends maneuvers in Donbas, blames Ukraine for 'unbearable' actions

"The Minsk agreements do not exist anymore," Putin told reporters.

Updated: February 22, 2022 - 9:40pm

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Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused Ukraine of committing "genocide" in its eastern breakaway region, while others have reported that that the Kremlin has killed thousands of Ukrainians over the last decade.

Putin on Monday recognized the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic in Ukraine's Donbas region. He ordered troops to the area for "peacekeeping functions."

"What more is there to wait for? Should we wait for this abuse of people to continue, this genocide of the almost four million people who live in these territories? It is unbearable to watch. You can see for yourself what is going on there," Putin told reporters. "Well, how can you continue to put up with that? As a matter of fact, that is all there is to it."

Putin defended his recognition of the areas.

"When we spoke to our European colleagues, they all said the same thing: 'Yes, this is the way forward,' but in reality they were unable to force their partners in the current leadership in Kyiv to do so," he said.

Putin told reporters that "the Minsk agreements do not exist anymore." The Kremlin has been accused by the United States of violating the 2014 cease-fire agreements after recognizing the regions. 

The Minsk agreements, which have never been implemented fully, were created with the goal of ending the war in Donbas involving pro-Russian militants, Business Insider reported.

Putin accused Ukraine of genocide in the region last week and in December as well, according to Business Insider.

Others have challenged Putin's accusations.

"Putin’s genocide allegations are not only groundless. They represent a grotesque distortion of reality that seeks to blame the victims for a war of aggression orchestrated by Moscow that has killed thousands of Ukrainians and forced millions to flee their homes," former Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba wrote for the Atlantic Council last week.

Scherba cited various examples of murders by Russian forces within the last decade.

"In June 2014, the growing religious intolerance of the Kremlin occupation forces led to the murder of four evangelical Christians," Scherba wrote.

Other killings by Russian forces include that of a 16-year-old footballer who was "pro-Ukrainian," and a married couple who helped feed Ukrainian soldiers, Scherba said.

"The list goes on. There are literally thousands of equally distressing accounts from the past eight years of Russian aggression against Ukraine," the former diplomat wrote.

Historically, the accusation of genocide by Russia may be especially haunting to Ukrainians. More than 3 million Ukrainians died during the Soviet Union's man-made Holodomor famine, which is considered to be a genocide by both houses of Congress.