Putin: No one wants a clash between NATO and Russia in Syria and a ceasefire in Ukraine is difficult

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Russia doesn’t refuse to hold talks on Ukraine, adding that the African peace initiative as well as the Chinese initiative can serve as a basis for peace.

This came during a press conference a day after Putin met with African leaders in Moscow.

Putin said it was difficult to implement a ceasefire while the Ukrainian army was on the offensive.

The Russian president also stressed that no one wants a direct clash between NATO forces and Russia in Syria, adding that if someone wants it, Russia is ready.

On Saturday, the Russian president defended the escalating crackdown on civil society and critical voices in the country, saying it was necessary in the context of the conflict in Ukraine.

He said during a conference with Russian journalists, “We’re in the year 2023, and the Russian Federation is engaged in an armed conflict with one of its neighbors, and I think we have to take a certain attitude towards the people who cause us harm inside the country”.

“We’ve to keep in mind that in order to succeed, including in a conflict zone, we must follow certain rules,” he added.

Putin’s statement came in response to a journalist’s question from the Russian daily Kommersant about the recent arrest of political expert Boris Kagarlitsky and director Yevgenia Berkovich.

The journalist asked, “These two people were arrested because of the words they said or wrote… Is this normal?”

Kagarlitsky, a well-known political analyst specializing in Russia’s left, was charged this week with public calls for terrorism and placed in pre-trial detention in Syktyvkar in Russia’s far north.

He had publicly expressed his opposition to the attack in Ukraine.

As for Yevgenia Berkovich, she was arrested in early May and accused of “glorifying terrorism” in connection with a play she directed in 2020 that tells the story of Russian women who were recruited on the Internet to marry jihadists in Syria.

Putin said he heard their names for the first time and didn’t really understand what they did or what happened to them, adding that he was giving his general opinion on this issue.

Since the start of the offensive by Russian forces in Ukraine and the adoption of laws banning any critical speech, a large number of independent Russian media outlets have been forced to suspend their activities or leave the country and many opponents have been exiled or imprisoned.

Thousands of fines and many severe prison sentences were imposed on activists and intellectuals.

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