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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Putin says no talks with Ukraine about release of sailors

The Russian president spoke with reporters on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires

A view shows a Russian navy minesweeper ship, the Vice Admiral Zakharin, near Kerch, Crimea. Reuters
A view shows a Russian navy minesweeper ship, the Vice Admiral Zakharin, near Kerch, Crimea. Reuters

Russia President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday there had been no discussion with Ukraine about the possible release of the country's sailors who were seized along with their ships by Russia last week.

Putin was talking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Russia is resisting international calls to release the naval ships that its border patrols fired upon and seized in the Kerch strait near Russian-annexed Crimea last weekend.

Moscow accused the 24 sailors of illegally crossing the Russian border.

Putin said he would not introduce tit-for-tat restrictions on the entry of Ukrainians into Russia after Kiev imposed a ban on Russian males aged 16 to 60 from entering its territory.

After the US President Donald Trump cancelled a planned meeting with Putin at the G20 summit, citing the military tensions with Ukraine, the Russian leader said there were no pre-conditions for future bilateral talks.

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"It is regrettable that we can't succeed in holding a full-scale meeting, which is long due," Putin said, adding that issues of strategic stability would be of paramount importance.

Putin and Trump had a brief meeting in Buenos Aires which the White House characterised as an informal chat while Mr Putin called it a brief stand-up meeting.

Trump's administration has accused Russia of non-compliance with the 31-year-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and has said it will pull out of the deal as a result. The Kremlin denies violating the pact.

"This is related to the issues of strategic stability, especially after the president declared his desire to withdraw from the INF missile treaty," Putin added.