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Defiant Putin drops cool demeanor in Ukraine talk



MOSCOW (AP) -- In some ways, the venue Vladimir Putin chose and the emotional lecture he gave the world about Russia's actions in Ukraine said it all.

In an hour-long chat with a handful of Kremlin pool reporters at his presidential residence, Putin sat in an easy chair and spoke with the bravado of an ex-KGB agent suspicious of Western plots.

Wagging his finger at the reporters, the defiant leader dismissed the threat of U.S. and European Union sanctions, alleged that "rampaging neo-Nazis" dominate Ukraine's capital, and said the Russian and Ukrainian soldiers locked in a standoff in Crimea are actually "brothers in arms." A look at Putin's appearance and what it says about the crisis and him.

STANDING TOUGH

Putin has long been famous for his cool public demeanor at public appearances that often are carefully stage managed.

But during Tuesday's news conference - which was televised live across Russia - he made it clear that he takes the Ukraine crisis personally.

He accepted questions from the reporters about the threat of war in Ukraine, the Russian military takeover of the country's Crimean Peninsula, and the looming Western sanctions.

But he batted them away with his usual mix of disdainful sarcasm and political arguments in a rapid-fire delivery. When someone's cellphone rang in the middle of live broadcast, something that reportedly makes him mad, Putin paused then continued his speech.

Putin's performance seemed to reflect his genuine anger about what he sees as the West's hypocrisy and its heavy-handed involvement in Ukrainian affairs.

His remarks also showed what many observers have spotted: his deep involvement and strong personal feelings about the Ukrainian crisis, which he blames on the West.

He also seems to see Ukraine as a defining moment of his 14-year rule and a key turning point for post-Cold War Europe.

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PUTIN'S RATIONALE

Putin acknowledged that the Ukrainians who rallied against their president, Viktor Yanukovych, were driven by anger against corruption and nepotism in his government. But Putin said the nation's new government is merely "replacing some cheats with others."

He denounced the ouster of Yanukovych as an "unconstitutional coup and armed seizure of power." Putin claimed that the radical nationalists wearing swastika-like bands had come to control Kiev, and alleged that the snipers who shot and killed scores of people during the protesters were provocateurs, not government soldiers.

"Armed, masked militants are roaming around Kiev," he said. Asked if Russia would recognize the outcome of Ukraine's election set for May, he said, "We will not if such terror continues."

He insisted that Yanukovych, who fled to Russia, remains the only legitimate leader of Ukraine. But he also spoke about Yanukovych with disdain, saying he has failed in his presidential duties.

U.S.-TRAINED RADICALS

Putin accused the West of staging the massive protests in the Ukrainian capital in order to reduce Russia's clout there. He claimed that radical demonstrators involved in violent clashes with police in Kiev were trained by Western instructors.

"I have a feeling that they sit somewhere in a lab in America over a big puddle and conduct experiments, as if with rats, without understanding the consequences of what they are doing," he said.

He said the ouster of Yanukovych hours after he had signed a deal to surrender much of his power and hold early elections has plunged Ukraine into chaos and put it on the verge of breakup.

"READY TO USE ALL MEANS"

Putin said that "we reserve the right to use all means we have" to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine from violent Ukrainian nationalists. But he added that he hopes there will be no need for sending Russian troops there.

"We don't want to enslave anyone or dictate anything," he said. "But we won't be able to stay aside, if we see them being hunted down, destroyed and harassed."

He made it clear that Russia doesn't see the Ukrainian military as a serious adversary, saying that the Russian and the Ukrainian soldiers are "brothers in arms" who will stand "on one side of the barricades."

He said that weeklong war games in western Russian that involved 150,000 troops, hundreds of tanks and dozens of combat jets, had been planned earlier and weren't linked to the developments in Ukraine, adding that he ordered them back to their bases.

STANDOFF IN CRIMEA

Putin says that Russian forces in Ukraine's strategic region of Crimea, which hosts a major Russian naval base, have beefed up security to fend off threats from Ukrainian nationalists. He denied that the troops, who have overtaken Ukrainian military bases across Crimea, were Russian and described them as local "self-defense forces."

Putin said that Moscow has no intention to annex Crimea. At the same time, he strongly supported a local referendum on Crimea's status, saying that people there have the right to determine their fate.

TURNING TABLE ON THE WEST

Putin rejected Western accusations of Russian aggression against Ukraine, saying the U.S. should know better, given what it has done.

"We have to remind them about the U.S. action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where they acted without any sanction of the United Nations Security Council, or wilfully interpreted its resolution as in the case of Libya," he said. "Our partners, particularly in the United States, always clearly formulate their geopolitical and state interests and aggressively pursue them. They try to pull the rest of the world under them and start hitting those who put up resistance, eventually finishing them off, as a rule."

He did not mention that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, starting a war that lasted for nearly a decade and precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union.

THINK TWICE ABOUT SANCTIONS

Putin has shrugged off Western threats to impose political and economic sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine, saying that they will backfire against the West.

"In the modern world, where everything is linked and everyone depends on others in one way or another, we can incur damage to one another, but it would be mutual damage," he said.

Asked about the possibility that members of the Group of Eight will not show up at its summit scheduled in Sochi in June, he said: "If they don't want to come, it's OK."

Join the discussion

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Straightdeck March 04 2014 at 10:36 PM

Ukraine is divided between its west, oriented towards Europe, and its east , oriented towards Russia. The Crimea, which was given to the Ukraine by Krushchev, has a Russian majority and a type of commonwealth status that would allow it to secede from the Ukraine. Part of the western Ukraine was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many Ukrainians fought for the Germans in WWII. Klitschko's ties to Germany are worth noting. Following the recent revolution, the Ukrainian parliament voted to decertify Russian as a national language. Once the revolutionaries deposed the repressive and corrupt but democratically elected national government, the Ukraine effectively stopped existing as a nation.

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1 reply
worldcommenter Straightdeck March 04 2014 at 11:17 PM

Criema was settled by Greeks and Tartars until Stalin deported them all in the 1950's to make room for the ethnic Russians. Westen Ukraine under Austro-Hungary was able to keep its language and culture; while central and eastern Ukriane under the Russian Tsars was not allowed to read, write or speak Ukrainian, if caught you went to Siberia or got shot. Most Ukrainans actually fought in the Soviet Army in WWII and others fought against both the Communists and the Nazis. You worry about Klitschko, as a member of the Ukrainian Parliment, meeting with the Prime Minister of Germany; what about all the gas that Russia / Gazprom sells Germany, maybe Gazprom is controlled by Germany based on the billions of dollars they pay for natural gas.

In the US is the only "official" language is English and translation is provided into others. Does it make sense that in Ukraine, the Russian language would be given priority over the Ukrainian language. Klitschko is from central Ukraine and initially sopke only Russian, but after Ukrainian independence he learned Ukrainian, because he is an ethnic Ukrainian, not an ethnic Russian.

Actually, one the freedom loving people of Ukraine dispose of the repressive, corrupt and parasitic government they will able to steer a new course toward a better economic futre for themselves and the children, just like Poland and the other ex-Wrsaw Pact / Soviet countires.

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cvanac8550 March 04 2014 at 7:21 PM

I was waiting for this.......
We have to remind them about the U.S. action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where they acted without any sanction of the United Nations Security Council, or wilfully interpreted its resolution as in the case of Libya," he said. "Our partners, particularly in the United States, always clearly formulate their geopolitical and state interests and aggressively pursue them. They try to pull the rest of the world under them and start hitting those who put up resistance, eventually finishing them off, as a rule."

only problem is only corporate America and the 1% are formulating US geopolitics...Obomber/Kerry/Ms. Clinton are lap dogs.....

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blackcoffeeparty March 05 2014 at 12:25 AM

The billion dollar energy grant Obama gave the Ukraine should have been spent here. A billion would go far to improve solar cells and direct drive turbines that do not need dams to power hydro production. Small efficient windmills could produce mega kilowatt hours if connected in a grid in rural areas

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1 reply
vladswim blackcoffeeparty March 05 2014 at 12:28 AM

But America has more governments to overthrow. It is much more important to them than focusing on domestic issues.

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drumzz1001 March 04 2014 at 7:21 PM

Lets be real,the U.S has been in a war in every decade since WW2,it's become at this point our economy.We're in Afghanistan now 14 years,and aside from killing a couple a Al quaida members and spending TRILLIONS in doing so,what REALLY is happening in Afghanistan that we needed to be there 14 years? As for Russia and China call them whatever you want,but the REALITY is they're partners of ours in every aspect of business,manufacturing,and without a doubt taking over the world.This idea that we alone know the way and are on high MORAL GROUND is B.S.We have become the major source for all the wars in the world,and we use our PARTNERS for that purpose.Make no mistake about it,Putin like China takes their orders from the U.S,and all this game playing on T.V,the internet etc is all a front.The big fish want to control every aspect of the world right down to what people do in their homes,work and thoughts. There are no Commies,Nazis left,there are only Capitalists (Wall st,Big Banks,Big oil that have decided that they need and want to take over the world,and Putin,Obama and several others know that they're only puppets for these big power brokers.)

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1 reply
marblclear drumzz1001 March 04 2014 at 7:31 PM

Wow, that was amazing. But it made absolutely no sense what so ever.

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stephen March 04 2014 at 6:33 PM

Let Putin handle it, we need to stop critisizing him and treat him as an ally and not the stupid cold war reteric, if we had anarchy at our back door would russia have the right to intervene ? Obama needs to keep his war monger attitude out of foreign politics. Putin diffused the Syria issue, when Obomba saw spending billions of our dollars and risking the lives of our service people as his alternative. No one wants this chaos anywhere, whether it be at our back door or his.

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1 reply
SatrdyWait stephen March 04 2014 at 6:46 PM

It's pretty obvious that you don't get what's going on in Ukraine.

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hanrod1 March 04 2014 at 7:22 PM

A government leader always gains respect and credence, when he/she acknowledges errors of the past. Putin should definitely acknowledge the Soviet error in invading Afghanistan and, at some appropriate point, Obama should acknowledge the U.S. errors in overthrowing the elected government of Iran in 1953, the actually unncecssary invasion of Iraq II (the second one, not the U.N. action in response to invasion of Kuwait), etc., etc. Our participation in the "dirty wars" in Central and South America would also be a good thing to admit and denounce. I have to think that, in a similar situation to that now faced by Putin, most any U.S. President would do likewise.

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Lew March 04 2014 at 7:22 PM

As I recall from my readings about WW 2, Hitler said he wanted to protect German speaking Czechs from Communists, liberal Jews etc. He used that as justification to seize the Sudentenland.
But clearly Putin wants to protect the Russian naval base. Historically the Crimean peninsula was Russian territory. Russia supplies significant energy resources to central Europe. Sanctions against Russia are very problematic in terms of bringing about any real change in Putin's behavior.

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cgpdap March 04 2014 at 10:35 PM

IS THERE ANY OTHER COUNTRY THAT WE HAVE MISSEDTHAT WE CAN INVADE?

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1 reply
Mr. Ladensack cgpdap March 04 2014 at 10:37 PM

China.

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malpatlaw March 04 2014 at 7:23 PM

Those who forget history are doomed to relive it. Look back at the statements by Germany in the 1930's where they were just "protecting German-speaking peoples" in neighboring countries annexed by Nazi Germany. The larger problem now is the nuclear consequence.

Russia just wants to assure its possession of its naval base. It is protecting itself, not the 18% of the Crimean population of Russian descent. The majority speak Russian as they were part of the Soviet Union from the 1920s (when they were invaded) until 1990.

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rsjacobian March 04 2014 at 6:31 PM

Western Ukraine will iron out its differences with Russia because it is necessary for both .

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