It didn't take long for Putin to respond to the latest news from the west that NATO was about to boost its military presence in proximity to Russia. Specifically he said that Putin does not see a reason to fear NATO which was to be expected. But the even more predictable punchline: Russia must respond when NATO moves closer to country’s border, President Vladimir Putin says during annual televised call-in show.
The Russian president made his views clear during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, ahead of the Geneva two-day meeting during which the Ukraine problam is (again) supposed to get a diplomatic solution (it won't). During the Q&A Putin also accused the Kiev government of committing "a serious crime" by sending in troops to quell unrest in Ukraine's east, as a clash overnight left three pro-Russian protesters dead and 13 wounded. And just to make sure there is a solid enough soundbite, the former KGB spy accused the authorities in Kiev of plunging the country into an "abyss".
"Instead of realizing that there is something wrong with the Ukrainian government and attempting dialogue, they made more threats of force ... This is another very grave crime by Kiev's current leaders," Putin said in a televised question-and-answer session with the Russian public that has become an annual event.
"I hope that they are able to realize what a pit, what an abyss the current authorities are in and dragging the country into," said Putin, who dismissed as "rubbish" accusations that Russian agents were acting in east Ukraine.
Among his other comments, Putin said that the East and South Ukraine were parts of the Russian empire until becoming part of Ukraine under the USSR, with a heavy hint that either the East and South would soon be part of Russia, or that the second coming of the USSR is in the cards, both of which should make the Ukraine government quite nervous.
Perhaps in an attempt to diffuse the tension, he noted he had been authorized by Russia's parliament in early March to use force in Ukraine if necessary, "but I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right, and that through political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve the most acute problems in Ukraine today." As the WSJ reports, Putin said Ukraine's military effort showed the new government in Kiev was making no effort to respond to the demands of those in the heavily ethnic-Russian region.
In short: absolutely no de-escalation from the Russian.
Some of the other things he said:
- Russia will give Ukraine month to start paying for gas before demanding advance payment for supplies. However, Russia kep the gas price set at $485/kcm, knowing quite well Ukraine can't afford it.
- Ukraine payments for gas stopped after new govt in Kiev took power, Putin says
- Moving Ukraine to prepayments may lead to disruptions in transit to Europe, Putin says
- Europe won’t be able to stop buying Russian gas, President Vladimir Putin says during annual televised call-in show.
- “There is only one problem -- transit -- and the most dangerous element here is, of course, transit though Ukraine, where we’ve found it very difficult to agree on energy issues.”
- Putin says hopes to reach agreement with Ukraine in accordance with gas contracts
- Ukraine can be asked to start prepayments for gas “at any moment,” Gazprom Chairman Viktor Zubkov says separately today
- Decision on Ukraine depends on answer from 18 leaders of European countries that buy Russian gas to letter from Putin: Zubkov
- Govt in Kiev isn’t legitimate, don’t have national mandate
- Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, other eastern, southern regions were part of Russian empire until becoming part of Ukraine under U.S.S.R
- People have been trying to divide Russia, Ukraine for centuries; Yugoslavia was split up to make it easier to manipulate
- Russia didn’t force Crimea accession
- Ukraine political groups must reach compromise, outside forces can only support compromise, not up to Russia, U.S. to resolve Ukraine crisis
- Moldovan breakaway region should be allowed to choose fate, blocakde of Transnistria must stop.
- Russia must respond when NATO moves closer to country’s border
- U.S. anti-missile system isn’t defensive, Putin says
- Russia, U.S. should work together on missile threats: Putin