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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Nielsen's, Sina Weibo Team Up for Closer Look at Chinese Social Media

    US-based rating agency reaches deal with China's Twitter-like service to gauge marketing effectiveness on platform which has more than 200 million users

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora