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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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lgreenbee March 04 2014 at 10:36 PM

Russia needs to know... the people of the US are good people... we who know Russian people as I do know they are Beautiful people. I love my grandson who was adopted before Putin stopped adoptions to the US. What Putin should know is I made friends with Russian families through an organization called Link Friendship.. I loved my visit of Russia and will remember it till my dying day. I will love and respect the people of Russia.. Think about the Mothers Child who is sent into military action against their brothers in arms. Somebody is going to die. Life is too precious - not trading deal with Ukraine is more important than living side by side respecting the other side.
If I could make a Plea to Russia.. I would say handle this problem with Ukraine to avoid blood shed - handle it like we handle the republicans... we don't like them they don't like us .. BUT we have to deal with them.

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1 reply
automeris1 lgreenbee March 04 2014 at 10:40 PM

And we all have to live on this planet together which gets smaller all the time.

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ocnoreenj March 04 2014 at 10:55 PM

The bully pulpit= Putin. What I want to know is where is the USA getting the One Billion Dollars they are promising Ukraine. I know that the politicos are working on redistributing the USA taxpayers money throughout the world. Meanwhile, they let the seniors do without, disabled scuffle and make every citizen pay for medical and other social programs for illegals, both mexican and muslim and give our housing to people who don't even speak English. Don't tell me that there is no money in our coffers. The lying politicians have our money which they first skim off the top and share it and then redistribute it to others as they see fit and then cry poormouth. We are not going for it, liars.

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harolddundee March 04 2014 at 7:08 PM

America shouldn`t concern itself with Ukraine at all. Take care of things at home.

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2 replies
merlin9394 harolddundee March 04 2014 at 7:16 PM

we would be FAR better off if Obama did nothing at home.

and your comment shows only one thing: a complte lack of understanding about anything that does not directly benefit YOU .

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randihpnc246 harolddundee March 04 2014 at 7:25 PM

We should be concerned! One billion of our tax dollars will do there.

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Jacquie March 04 2014 at 10:57 PM

March 2009, Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov pressed the reset button.....And Putin smiled......

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Administrator March 04 2014 at 7:07 PM

AOL, you are correct, "He did not mention that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, starting a war that lasted for nearly a decade". He also did not mention t


I understand when report it 's hard to report facts without involving persnal comments, AOL you need to remember that when you provide News articles.

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willie March 04 2014 at 10:57 PM

Tempest in a tea pot? U.S. has no reason to be involved, unless there is OIL in them there countries.

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1 reply
worldcommenter willie March 04 2014 at 11:21 PM

The US has plenty of oil and gas if we just want to go get it. We are involved because we negotiated a deal with Ukraine, Great Britian and Russian to disarm Ukriane's 5,000 nuclear warheads in exchange for guaranteeing their borders, territory and soverenty. If Ukraine has its nuclear warheads, then Putin would not be messin with them.

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chevsguy March 04 2014 at 7:07 PM

Although I don't agree with what Putin is saying about him sending troops, he's correct about how we think its ok when we send troops to any country we feel like invading ... the cold war feelings still linger

Flag Reply +4 rate up
siegbertotto March 04 2014 at 7:07 PM

Let's face it...at he moment he is running the show
So we ( europe especially) are playing to his music
since any action, like sanctions would not be joined
by the EU....and Germany needs his gas.
So let's face it Merkel and as explained by their
foreign minister .... lets wait!
But P does not have to wait....................!

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quentchan March 04 2014 at 7:07 PM

Everything I just read sounds pretty reasonable. If a respectable president of the USA were involved in something similar, he would approach it the same way. Let's look watchfully and carefully at the outcome, and expect that intelligence and reason still exists in those civilized parts of the world. They are not like Iran, or North Korea.

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vludat March 04 2014 at 11:00 PM

If you like your country you can keep your country -period..

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