Putin Considers Ukrainians, Russians 'Same People'

Crimean people watch a TV broadcast with Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking during his annual call-in live broadcast, on the seafront in Sevastopol, Crimea, 17 April 2014. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Politics are being played out in the world that are aiming to divide Russians and Ukrainians, who are virtually "the same people", Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

In a traditional session which gives opportunity to Russians to pose questions to the head of state, Putin also compared recent events in Ukraine with those that shook Yugoslavia during the 1990s and made references to Eastern Ukraine's place in Russia during the Tsarist era.

Answering to citizens' questions asked via the so-called "direct line", an event held annually, Putin said that White Movement, a confederation of anti-communist forces that fought the Bolshevik in the Russian Civil War, "did not even allow themselves to think of dividing Russia and Ukraine".

Russia's President also called for compromise and restraint to be shown by both sides in Eastern Ukraine's unrest.

He said that for his country it was of utmost importance that guarantees for the "legal rights and interests of Russian and Russian-language citizens" in Eastern and South-Eastern Ukraine be provided.

Explaining his stance on the Ukrainian crisis, however, Putin added that if Tsarist-era vocabulary is to be used, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Herson, Nikolaev, Odessa were called "Novorossia" (New Russia) and "were [back then] not part of Ukraine".

He reminded that their territories were "handed to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. Why they did it, only God knows".

Underscoring the role of Kiev's leadership in causing the current crisis, he said that "oligarchs" had been appointed as governors in the east, according to Russian outlet Vedomosti.

The President also put emphasis on Ukraine's upcoming presidential elections on...

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