News / Europe

Putin Sends Mixed Signals on Crimea

Russia's President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, March 4, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, March 4, 2014
James Brooke
President Putin broke a 10-day silence on Ukraine, telling reporters Tuesday that Russia has no intention to annex Crimea, the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula now controlled by Russian soldiers.
 
“Regarding the deployment of troops, the use of armed forces, there is no need for it, but the possibility remains,” he told reporters gathered at the presidential residence outside of Moscow.
 
Earlier Tuesday, he ordered back to barracks 150,000 Russian soldiers who had gathered in western Russia for a week of maneuvers. These air and land drills involved 20 percent of Russia’s military and had caused alarm in neighboring Ukraine.
 
Some analysts welcomed the two moves as cutting tensions after a week of Cold War style brinkmanship.
 
Lilit Gevorgyan, a Russia analyst in London for IHS, the consulting company says “Clearly saying that he is not interested in - or that his country is not interested in - annexation of Crimea and that the military drills are called off - are good steps. They are positive steps.”

Right to intervene
 
But Putin stressed that he retains the right to militarily intervene in Ukraine if Russian-speakers are at risk. On Saturday, Russia’s Duma voted unanimously to allow Mr. President to send Russian soldiers anywhere in Ukraine.
 
"Even if we make the decision, if I make the decision to use military force, it will be legitimate," Putin told reporters.
 
Russia’s president questioned the validity of a treaty that his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, signed 20 years ago, which promised to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Putin said the Ukrainian state that existed when the treaty was signed no longer exists because a revolution has taken place in the country, and that Russia has no treaty obligations to the new Ukrainian state.
 
In that vein, Putin also denounced Ukraine’s current leaders as illegitimate and said Ukraine’s May 25 presidential elections will be illegitimate.

Yanukovych: legitimate, but no future
 
He said that Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s deposed president, is the nation’s legitimate president. The Russian leader said Yanukovych wrote him a letter from exile in Russia last week, asking him to send Russian troops to Ukraine to restore order. At a press conference in southern Russia last Friday, Yanukovych said Russia should act in Ukraine, but did not call for Russian soldiers.
 
Putin said he met with the former Ukrainian leader two days ago but put to rest any speculation that he has political plans for the exiled leader.

“I don’t think he has a political future, and I told him that,” the Russian leader said. “We only took him out of humanitarian reasons. Death is the simplest way to get rid of a legitimate president, and I think they would have just killed him.”
 
At the hour-long press conference outside Moscow, Putin became increasingly harsh.
 
Asked who Ukraine’s next president could be, he responded: “The danger exists that some nationalist, semi-fascist type ... some anti-Semite, will pop out like a devil from a snuffbox.”
 
He claimed that meddling American advisors stirred up peaceful Ukrainians.
 
“They sit there across the pond,” he said of American officials. ”Sometimes it seems they feel like they’re in a lab, and they’re running all sorts of experiments on the rats, without understanding the consequences of what they’re doing.”

Threat of war persists
 
In Washington, Andrew Weiss, the Carnegie Endowment’s vice president for Russia studies, watched the press conference. He said he does not believe the threat of war has lifted.
 
"In Eastern Ukraine, we see rent-a-mobs and indications of the Russian population there being stirred up, takeovers of government buildings and the like,” he said of the pro-Russian demonstrations. “Again, all this is about: will the Russian provocations lead the Ukrainian government to feel it has no choice but to respond?  And that would form the pretext for some sort of form of Russian military action."
 
Crimea remains a flashpoint. On Tuesday Russian soldiers fired shots over the heads of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers who were trying to march to their air base.
 
Lilit Gevorgyan again: “Sometimes when you have troops on the ground it can take one spark on the ground for events to spiral out of control. But to me, there seems to be an understanding on both sides, that this is not the best way for either country.”
 
In other worrying signs, Crimea’s new pro-Russian administration on Monday shut down Chernomorskaya TV and radio, the largest independent broadcaster on the peninsula. At the end of this month, Crimeans are to vote in a referendum on the region’s future status.
 
Further stirring the pot, Crimea’s new authorities say they have received inquiries from officials in three Russian-speaking cities in southern Ukraine, including the port of Odessa, asking if they could join their separatist movement.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid