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Putin Says Russia-Ukraine Relations Will Normalize after ‘Special Military Operation’


Asharq Al-Awsat


Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday at the St Petersburg Economic Forum that Russia anticipates restoring relations with Ukraine after the "special military operation" in that country concludes.
During a question-and-answer session with Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Putin said: "sooner or later, the situation will return to normal".
Russia deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24, in what it calls a "special military operation" to demilitarize and "denazify" Ukraine.
Both Ukraine and Western nations say that is a pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.
Putin said he had no objections to Ukraine joining the European Union following the European Commission's historic decision to back Kyiv's bid to become a member.
"We have nothing against it. It is not a military bloc. It's the right of any country to join economic unions," he replied when asked about the prospects of Ukraine joining the EU.
Russia has railed against Ukraine's attempts to join the NATO military alliance for years, with the issue becoming a major stand-off between Moscow and the West.
Before he ordered tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in late February, Putin had sought legal guarantees from the United States that Ukraine would not be admitted to the military alliance.
Earlier on Friday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin was closely following Ukraine's efforts to become a member of the EU, especially in the light of increased defense cooperation among the 27-member bloc.
The issue "requires our heightened attention, because we are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defence component of the EU," Peskov said in a call with reporters.
Putin questioned whether it was "advisable" for the EU to permit Ukraine to join, saying Kyiv would need huge economic subsidies that other EU members may not be willing to give.
The European Commission recommended on Friday that the EU designate Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership, with a third former Soviet republic, Georgia, being asked to meet certain conditions before being granted the same status.

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