(QHA) -

Russian President Vladimir Putin says a war with Ukraine is "unlikely" and he hopes "it will never happen."

In his interview with Russian state television broadcast - his first extended comments since the ceasefire deal was agreed on 12 February - Putin was asked if there was a real threat of war, given the situation in eastern Ukraine.

"I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen," he said.

"Europe is just as interested in that as Russia. No-one wants conflict on the edge of Europe, especially armed conflict," he said.

Ukraine, the United States, NATO, and many EU governments have long said that Russia has provided arms, military hardware, and troops to pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine.

Putin again rejected those charges, and said it was bad for Kyiv to blame Russia for Ukrainian forces' defeat in the town of Debaltseve.

Putin added that he thinks he "understands" and "generally trusts" German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

He said he maintains contact with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and believes that the Minsk cease-fire agreement will be adhered to and that the situation in eastern Ukraine "will gradually return to normal."

QHA