Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that he does not intend to abandon continued assistance to the DPR and LPR separatist republics, which control part of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
He said this during a "direct line" with Russian citizens while answering a question by writer Zakhar Prilepin, who participated in the war against Ukraine on the side of the militants.
Prilepin asked Putin his opinion about whether Ukraine will take advantage of the 2018 World Cup in order to launch an offensive in the Donbas.
"I hope it won’t come to provocations, but if that happens, I think it will have dire consequences for Ukraine’s statehood as a whole," Putin replied.
"I expect that nothing of the kind will happen. And it's impossible to intimidate the people who live in these territories in the Donbas. We see what is happening there, and we see how people endure it all. We are helping the two unrecognized republics, and we will continue to do so," he said.
Putin has blamed Ukraine for the current escalation in the Donbas, linking it to upcoming presidential elections in March 2019.
Dmytro Tymchuk, a Ukrainian MP as well as coordinator of the analytical group "Information Resistance" (IR), said earlier that Russia has instructed subordinate militias in the Donbas to reduce hostile activities for the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament.