MOSCOW, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin reinforced his belief that adherence to the Feb. 12 cease-fire agreement remains the best way to stabilize eastern Ukraine.
In an interview Monday to be broadcast on Russian television, he referred to the possibility of war with Ukraine as "apocalyptic" and "unlikely," and added Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 after an invasion and referendum condemned globally, will remain with Russia.
"Regarding the return of any territories, such things are of revengeful nature, and it is not about return of some territories somewhere. Crimea will remain Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar, Greek, and German; it will be a home to all these nations. With regard to its nationality, Crimean people made their choice, which we must respect."
The interview was Putin's first since the cease-fire agreement, signed in Minsk, Belarus, went into effect Feb. 15, although it has been frequently violated. He said implementation of the agreement, which includes a pullback of heavy artillery within two weeks and a prisoner exchange by both Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists, would be sufficient to calm the region.
"Europe is just as interested in that (stability in Ukraine) as Russia. No one wants conflict on the edge of Europe, especially armed conflict," he said.