Despite Talks, Putin Takes Hard Line Over Ukraine Border Control

Irina Reznik

(Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said returning control of Ukraine’s eastern border to Ukrainian forces could lead to a genocide similar to the massacre in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war.

“The Ukrainian side is always raising the issue: ‘Give us the opportunity to close the border with troops.’ Well I can imagine what will happen then. It will be another Srebrenica,” Putin told a meeting of his Kremlin human rights council on Tuesday.

Putin questioned whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has control over nationalist forces in the country, saying “It’s not clear who of them is stronger and what will happen and who will control these nationalists when they enter these territories without ensuring guarantees for people.”

His remarks show little sign that Putin is softening his position a day after he had his first face-to-face meeting with Zelenskiy to try to resolve the conflict that’s killed more than 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Zelenskiy made clear at the talks in Paris that Ukraine must regain control of its eastern border before elections can take place in the disputed region as part of a peace accord. Putin said the elections must come first.

Bosnian Serb forces killed some 8,000 men and boys in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in 1995, which had been declared a United Nations safe area. The UN called the slaughter the largest such crime on European soil since the end of World War II. Russia, an ally of the Serbs during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, vetoed a 2015 resolution at the UN Security Council that condemned the Srebrenica killings as genocide.

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Reznik in Moscow at ireznik@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Tony Halpin

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