Ukraine PM accuses Russia's Putin of seeking to 'eliminate' country

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Saturday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to wipe out Ukraine as an independent country despite a truce deal. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Saturday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to wipe out Ukraine as an independent country despite a truce deal. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV (AFP) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Saturday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to wipe out Ukraine as an independent country despite a truce deal.

"His aim is not just to take Donetsk and Lugansk," Mr Yatsenyuk said at a conference in Kiev, referring to the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine where fighting has been raging for five months. "His goal is to take the entire Ukraine... he wants to eliminate Ukraine as an independent country," Mr Yatsenyuk said in English.

He described the truce signed on Sept 5 in Minsk between Kiev, pro-Russian rebels, Moscow and the European security body the OSCE as just a "first step" to "stop a massacre" in eastern Ukraine. He said that having a bilateral accord with Russia was "not the best" idea and called on the United States and the European Union to play a direct role in peace talks, and to guarantee Ukraine's sovereignty and independence. "They (the Russians) will outplay us," he said. "Putin wants to get another frozen conflict and get his hands on our belly fat."

He said the conflict had made it impossible for the Kiev authorities to embark on real change, to tackle political reforms, the economic crisis and endemic corruption. He denied however that the unrest in the east, which erupted after pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising against Kiev's rule, was a "civil conflict". "The only person who is destabilising the situation is Putin," he said. "We are in a state of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation."