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Putin says he has 'great respect' for Ukrainian people and culture

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  • Putin said on Wednesday that Russia has always respected the Ukrainian people and culture.
  • The Russian president has repeatedly denied Ukraine its rights as an independent state.
  • Nearly 5,800 Ukrainian civilians also died in the Russian invasion, according to the United Nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he has always respected the Ukrainian people and culture.

“Despite the current tragedy, we always, and still today, have great respect for the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian culture, language, literature, etc. I am,” he said.

But Putin went on to say that he could not allow Russian culture and the Russian language to do what was happening in Ukraine. Ukrainian worldPutin appears to be alluding to his earlier allegations that Ukraine is committing genocide against ethnic Russians, but no evidence has ever been produced to support this allegation.

Despite his statements of respect for Ukrainian culture, Putin has repeatedly denied the country’s right to exist. In justifying the February invasion, Putin baselessly argued that Ukraine was not a real country, but a country created by the Soviet Union and had no right to become a state.

Many historians deny that assessment, citing overwhelming evidence of Ukrainian culture and history that predates the Soviet Union, which was formed in 1922.

The histories of Russia and Ukraine are intertwined, and parts of Ukraine were at one point part of the Russian Empire. But Cliff Kupchan, chairman of political risk consultancy Political Eurasia Group, told The New York Times in February:

Kupchan added that “the breadth and intensity with which he pursued all things Ukraine is remarkable.”

Putin also falsely said that Russia gave Ukraine the right to secede after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. About 84% of voters went to the polls and more than 90% voted for independence.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the United Nations has confirmed more than 14,000 civilian casualties as of September, with 5,767 dead. However, the actual number is believed to be higher. Ukrainian officials said in August that about 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers had also died during the war.

Russian forces have carried out repeated attacks, attacking residential areas in Ukraine and killing civilians, but the Kremlin denies it has ever targeted anything but military assets. A UN investigation last month concluded that Russian forces had committed war crimes, including the killing, torture and rape of civilians.

In a speech Wednesday, Putin also said he would stabilize four regions of Ukraine that he claims are now part of Russia.