Moscow has denied a claim made by former French president Francois Hollande in his memoirs that Russian President Vladimir Putin had threatened to “crush” Ukrainian troops.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized that he had never heard the Russian president use such an expression.
“I was practically at every negotiation. I did not hear this phrase,” Peskov underlined, saying however, that he had not read Hollande’s book. The memoirs was published in April, but has been recently circulated in Ukraine.
The claim is related to alleged exchanges between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko during peace talks in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in 2015 to resolve the Ukraine crisis.
Representatives of the warring parties as well as the presidents of Russia, France, Germany and Belarus attended the talks.
In his book, titled ‘Lessons of Power,’ Hollande claims “Several times things heat up between Poroshenko and Putin, who suddenly becomes annoyed and threatens to simply crush the troops of his interlocutor.”
He opined in the memoir: “This amounts to admitting the presence of his forces in eastern Ukraine. He immediately takes it back.”
The Ukraine crisis started in the country’s east in April 2014 following Crimea’s separation from Ukraine and reunion with Russia following a referendum. Since then, international efforts to restore peace to the Russian-speaking region have failed and more than 10,000 people have died.
Kiev and its Western allies have accused Moscow of channeling troops and armaments across the border into eastern Ukraine, a charge Russia denies.
Meanwhile, the Russian president described the killing of leader of pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, Alexander Zakharchenko, as a “dastardly” act aimed at destabilizing the fragile truce between opposing forces in Ukraine, expressing his condolences to his family.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) was killed on Friday in a bomb blast.
The Russian foreign ministry declared on Friday that it had every reason to believe Kiev was responsible for Zakharchenko’s killing.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was cited in state media as saying on Friday that Zakharchenko’s killing reflected Kiev’s decision to engage in a “bloody fight” and that it had passed up on its pledges of seeking peace.
Russia’s state investigative committee also issued a statement, saying it was treating the killing of the pro-Russia leader in eastern Ukraine as an act of international terrorism. It opened a criminal investigation into the killing.