Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would likely have to reach agreements regarding Ukraine in the future, but felt betrayed by the breakdown of the Minsk agreements.
Putin said Germany and France — which brokered ceasefire agreements in the Belarusian capital Minsk between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 — had betrayed Russia and were now pumping Ukraine with weapons.
In an interview published in Germany’s Zeit magazine on Wednesday, former German chancellor Angela Merkel said that the Minsk agreements had been an attempt to “give Ukraine time” to build up its defences.
Speaking on Friday at a news conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Putin said he was “disappointed” by Merkel’s comments.
Putin said that further prisoner swaps between the US and Russia were possible and that contacts between the two countries’ intelligence services would continue.
Putin was speaking a day after the US freed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for US basketball player Brittney Griner in the most high-profile prisoner exchange between the two countries in years.
Putin was asked if other exchanges were possible. “Yes, anything is possible,” he replied.
“Contacts continue. In fact, they have never stopped ... A compromise was found, we do not reject continuing this work in the future.”
Russia continues to hold Paul Whelan, a US Marine Corps veteran who was convicted of espionage in 2020 in a trial that US diplomats said had been unfair and opaque.
The Russian news agency Interfax on Thursday reported that talks between Washington and Moscow on freeing Whelan were continuing, citing Whelan’s lawyer.
Putin acknowledged that there had been some problems procuring equipment and clothes for the hundreds of thousands of troops Moscow has conscripted to fight in Ukraine in recent months.
He said some of the issues related to supplying the 300,000 men who were called up in a mobilisation drive in September and October were now easing.
Putin said problems related to Russia’s agricultural exports remained, with some Russian fertilisers still stuck in ports in Europe.
Russia has urged the UN to push the West to lift some sanctions to ensure Moscow can freely export its fertilisers and agricultural products — a part of the landmark Black Sea grain deal that Moscow says has not been implemented.
The Russian President said it was wrong to question the imprisonment of Opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who had been sentenced hours earlier to eight-and-a-half years in prison for disseminating “fake information” about Russia’s armed forces.
“Who is Yashin?” Putin asked at first when a reporter asked him to comment on the court ruling, before saying it was wrong to doubt a court’s decision.
‘Must face tribunal’
A representative of one of the organisations sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize said on Friday that she thinks Putin must face an international tribunal for the fighting in Ukraine.