The Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Ukrainian army is “NATO’s foreign legion” and does not pursue Ukraine’s national interests.

“In essence, this is already not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case NATO’s foreign legion, that certainly does not pursue the goal of defending Ukraine’s national interests,” Putin said on Monday.

“It has quite different goals — geopolitical containing of Russia, which is absolutely inconsistent with the national interests of the Ukrainian people,” he added.

The Moscow-Kiev relations have been extremely tense in recent months. Kiev accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in east Ukraine, saying the Russian intervention poses a security threat to Ukraine and all other neighboring states. Russia has categorically denied the allegations.

The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia protesters and the Ukrainian army since Kiev’s military operation started in April 2014 in a bid to crush the protests.

Violence intensified in May 2014 after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.

The fighting has left more than 5,000 people killed and over 1.5 million displaced, the United Nations says.


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