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

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs