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Putin: We must think how to stop 'tragedy' in Ukraine

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-24 09:30

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Minsk, Belarus, Nov 23, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Russian President Vladimir Putin told G20 leaders on Wednesday that it was necessary to think about how to stop "the tragedy" of the conflict in Ukraine, and said Moscow had never refused peace talks.

Addressing the group for the first time since the start of the conflict, the Russian president said some leaders had said in their speeches that they were shocked by the "aggression" of Russia in Ukraine.

"Yes, of course, military actions are always a tragedy," Putin told the virtual meeting called by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Russia's special military operation, launched in February 2022, triggered the gravest confrontation between Russia and the West since the depths of the Cold War.

Putin set out the Russian case that Ukraine had persecuted people in eastern Ukraine.

About 14,000 people were killed there between 2014 and 2021, including 3,106 civilians, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"We should think about how to stop this tragedy," Putin said. "By the way, Russia has never refused peace talks with Ukraine."

Although the West has promised to support Ukraine, there is increasing division over aid for Ukraine in some European countries as well as the United States, ahead of the US presidential election in November 2024.

Russia said on Wednesday it had protested to Finland after a damaged Russian tank was placed on display near the Finnish Parliament.

"Why are they doing this, for what? Why do Finns need this?" Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, accusing Helsinki of "Russophobia".

Rising tensions

Tensions have increased between Moscow and Helsinki since Finland joined NATO earlier this year, and they rose further last week when the Nordic country closed four crossing points on its border with Russia.

Helsinki said it was responding to a surge in asylum-seekers who it said were being funneled to the border by Russia, an accusation that Moscow has denied.

On Tuesday, a plan by Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo's Cabinet to close all road crossings with Russia was rejected by Finland's Chancellor of Justice Office.

Zakharova blamed Finland for the problems but said: "We are open to dialogue, particularly on border-related issues."

Russia will "of course" respond if Finland closes the remaining border posts between the two countries, Zakharova said, without specifying what its reaction would be.

The remarks came as Orpo said on Wednesday that the country will close all but the northernmost crossing point on its border with Russia from midnight on Friday.

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