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Putin offers Ukrainian president political asylum after talks with Macron

Moscow is ready to offer political asylum to Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko and others who face political persecution in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a joint press conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

Putin noted that he’d first floated an offer of asylum to Poroshenko when the latter was still a sitting president.

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“I told him that if he had any difficulties in the future, Russia was ready to grant him political asylum,” Putin said, noting that Poroshenko appeared to laugh off the idea initially, responding to such a prospect with irony. His predecessor Viktor Yanukovich received asylum in Russia after the February 2014 coup in Kiev that ultimately led to Poroshenko’s election.

Putin noted on Monday that the offer to Poroshenko, who is now facing charges of treason and abuse of office in Ukraine, is still in effect.

“Today I want to reaffirm my offer [to Poroshenko], despite us having serious differences on the issue of a settlement in Donbass,” the Russian president said, adding that he believes that Poroshenko had made “a lot of mistakes” in handling the conflict in the eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko was the president of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019. He is now awaiting trial on a series of charges, including promoting terrorism and treason, that stem from his alleged involvement in a plot to buy $54 million worth of coal from the breakaway Donbass in 2014 and 2015. The prosecutors argue that Poroshenko thus supposedly violated restrictions on trade with the region after it became de facto governed by separatists.

Poroshenko has argued that his trial is politically motivated.

Calling Poroshenko’s “persecution as a state criminal” by current Ukrainian President  Volodymyr Zelensky’s government “too ambitious” of a plan, Putin has accused Kiev of perpetrating “systematic human rights abuses” against its own people.

Naming as some of these abuses the persecution of political opponents and encroachment on media freedom, Putin noted that his biggest concern was the discrimination against the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. While Russian is a mother tongue for the majority of Ukrainian citizens living in the cities in the east and south of the country, it is not recognized as a native language under a new publishing law, which bans media publications that do not come with a translation into Ukrainian. An exception is, however, granted to English and the language of Crimean Tatars – another ethnic minority in Ukraine.

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