Russian Senate speaker Valentina Matviyenko said on Tuesday she abhorred Kiev’s “scorched earth” tactics in eastern Ukraine, but that the Kremlin was unlikely to seek a new mandate for military intervention in the crisis.
“What is happening now is a scorched earth tactic, a purge of the territory in certain areas of eastern Ukraine that the National Guard has occupied,” said Matviyenko, the speaker of the Federation Council and formally Russia’s third most senior politician.
Ukrainian forces have scored a string of surprise military successes since the weekend following the collapse of a temporary truce, driving most of the separatist militias back to the eastern hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk.
“They have begun ‘filtration’ of the population, it is all terrible,” she said at a news conference, without elaborating.
Separatists and some Russian media outlets reported claims that Kiev is planning to set up camps to hold suspected separatist sympathisers in eastern Ukraine.
Matviyenko said at a news conference that a unilateral ceasefire declared by Kiev’s leaders in late June but which was torn up last week, was just for “decoration”.
“Ukrainian authorities never intended to stop military action,” she added.
Asked whether she would recall senators from vacation if another intervention mandate was necessary, Matviyenko said such a scenario was possible but not likely.
“We have already demonstrated our ability to hold a meeting in an emergency, and all senators are ready to hold an unscheduled session if necessary. Such a scenario seems unlikely to me, but we will have as many sessions as needed,” she said.
Russian senators initially gave President Vladimir Putin the green-light for military action in Ukraine at an emergency session in March, paving the way for the annexation of Crimean peninsula and stoking fears of an invasion in the east of the country.
They revoked the mandate in late June, in a move Moscow said was aimed at helping the peace process for Ukraine.