1254 GMT April 20, 2021
In an interview with the AFP on Wednesday, Alexander Zakharchenko cautioned of a possible return to war to retake control of several areas lost to government forces last year, particularly the cities of Mariupol and Slaviansk.
“The problem is that we must recover territories that were temporarily occupied, preferably by peaceful means,” Zakharchenko said.
He also said the terms of the February ceasefire deal pave the ground for the automatic return of pro-Moscow forces to the DNR, adding, “The fundamental disagreement we have with Kiev is that we understand there must be a constitutional reform in Ukraine leading to the return, to us, of temporarily occupied territories.”
“I understand that in Kiev their interpretation of these agreements is totally different to ours,” the pro-Moscow leader added.
Zakharchenko, who was sworn in as head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in November last year, further denied the Western allegations that Moscow is supporting the pro-Russia forces operating in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s warring sides reached the agreement, dubbed Minsk II, at a summit attended by the leaders of Russia, France, and Germany in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on February 11 and 12. The agreement introduced measures such as a ceasefire, which commenced on February 15, the pullout of heavy weapons, and constitutional reform in Ukraine by the end of the year.
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have been hit by deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April last year to crush pro-Russia protests there.
Over 6,000 people have been killed since violence erupted in the eastern European country last April, the United Nations says.