News / Europe

    Putin Reserves Right to Use Force in Ukraine

    Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a live broadcast nationwide phone-in, in Moscow, Apr. 17, 2014.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a live broadcast nationwide phone-in, in Moscow, Apr. 17, 2014.
    Michael Eckels
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said he has "a right" to send troops into Ukraine but hopes he will "not have to exercise that right."

    Speaking live on Russian TV call-in show after a clash in eastern Ukraine in which three pro-Russian protesters were reported killed,  Putin warned the Ukrainian authorities of "the abyss they're heading into" and urged dialogue.

    He also admitted for the first time that Russian forces had been active in Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow last month. Previously he insisted that the camouflaged, masked gunmen who took over Crimea were a local "self-defense" force.
     
    But Putin stopped short of saying Russian forces were currently operating in eastern Ukraine.

    "It’s nonsense," Putin said. "There are no Russian troops or special forces in eastern Ukraine," adding that Kyiv’s use of armed force in the region is a "serious crime."

    The Russian president harshly criticized the West for trying to get Ukraine to align with it and said that people in eastern Ukraine have risen against the authorities in Kyiv, who ignored their rights and legitimate demands.

    He said Russia has no interest in reviving Cold War-era divisions, even if Moscow felt threatened by NATO's eastward expansion and was angered by U.S. interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria that had gone ahead over the Kremlin's objections.

    "The Iron Curtain is a Soviet invention,'' Putin said during the call-in show, which lasted just short of four hours. "We have no intention of closing off our country and our society from anyone.''

    Ukrainian presidential election

    He also said he will not recognize the results of Ukraine's upcoming elections on May 25.

    The elections violate Ukraine’s constitution, as Viktor Yanukovyh is still legally president, Putin said.

    Ukraine's prime minister on Thursday accused Putin of trying to sabotage the election and said Moscow was responsible for deaths in recent clashes in eastern Ukraine.

    "Russia is playing only one game: further aggravation, further provocation, because the task, that Putin today officially announced, is to wreck the presidential election on May 25," Arseny Yatseniuk told journalists in Kiev.

    Neighbors' concerns

    The crisis has alarmed Russia's neighbours, which fear Russia may not stop at Crimea and may seek to grab back further chunks of former Soviet territory.

    In comments likely to heighten such concerns, Putin said the people of Transdniestria - a breakaway, Slav-dominated region of ex-Soviet Moldova - should have the right to decide their own fate, though he stressed the need for negotiations.

    Russian gas

    Putin is also requesting advance payments for gas shipped to Ukraine in one month if it fails to reach agreement on settling its debts, urging Europe to assist Ukraine.

    "What is the current number-one problem? It is that Russia can't carry this burden [of helping Ukraine struggle through crisis] single-handed," Putin said. "It is for this reason that we have suggested to our European partners and friends that all of us meet as soon as possible and map out methods of support for the Ukrainian economy. That is, of course, if you truly care about the well being of Ukraine, and truly love the Ukrainian nation."

    Putin added that it would not be possible for Europe, which is trying to cut its reliance on Russian energy, to completely stop buying Russian gas. Russia meets presently around 30 percent of Europe's natural gas needs.

    He said that the transit via Ukraine is the most dangerous element in Europe's gas supply system, and that he was hopeful a deal could be reached with Ukraine on gas supplies.

    Geneva talks

    He also expressed hope for the success of Thursday's talks in Geneva that brings together the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine for the first time since the Ukrainian crisis erupted.

    "I think the start of today's talks is very important," he said, "as it's very important now to think together about how to overcome this situation and offer a real dialogue to the people."

    Obama administration officials played down any expectations that the meetings in Geneva would yield a breakthrough or Russian concessions meaningful enough to avoid new U.S. penalties. With Ukraine struggling to contain a pro-Russian uprising in its eastern region bordering Russia, the Obama administration is preparing additional sanctions against Moscow and a boost in aid for the Ukrainian military in the coming days, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

    WATCH: Related video report by Jeff Custer
     
    Violence Flares in Eastern Ukraine as Talks Begin in Genevai
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    April 17, 2014 1:37 PM
    Officials in Ukraine say at least three pro-Russian separatists were killed and 13 wounded in a clash with national guardsmen at a base in the Ukrainian town of Mariupol. The violence comes as Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers get ready for emergency talks in Geneva with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. VOA's Jeff Custer has more.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: EstherUghMuffin from: Texas
    April 17, 2014 7:18 PM
    Do not be afraid of Russia. A Russian bleeds 'red' like everyone on Earth.

    by: Anonymous
    April 17, 2014 12:12 PM
    Kyiv’s use of armed force to get rid of insurgents (even if Russian) from Government buildings is NOT a crime whatsoever, it is called protecting the government and future of Ukraine.

    Putin has committed crimes perhaps the world should be discussing them, or the International Criminal Court.

    by: Anonymous
    April 17, 2014 12:09 PM
    Putin has a job to do, to tell the people of Ukraine he has NO business getting involved in overthrowing the current temporary government of Ukraine. He has to tell the Russian separatists that if they want to live under Russian law, they must go home to "Russia". Putin must state to the world that he has no intentions WHATSOEVER to invade Ukraine for it is a sovereign state and he has no business there. Otherwise he is a criminal, and is the root of the problem.

    Just like in Canada, if French people started crying to France that does not give the French the right to invade Canada and make a French country within, and France has no business there.

    With tens of thousands of Russian troops along the Ukraine border before any of the Separatists started their thing in Ukraine, shows that Putin had invasion on his mind since the beginning. This shows what type of disrespect Putin has for the Ukraine Nation as a whole.

    Putin is guilty of many crimes, in Chechnya, Georgia, even Moscow Theatre Siege, Syria, and now Ukraine.

    Enough is enough, the people of Russia have to oust Putin, because the world will not do business with Putin anymore until he is removed.

    Putin should stand trial for his crimes.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    April 17, 2014 9:33 AM
    IF the US and the other (27) NATO countries had a God given right to attack Yugoslavia (under the guise for humanitarian reasons), to force them to give-up their sovereign land to form the independent state of Kosovo, then Russia has that same God given right, to protect the Russian people in Ukraine if attacked, (for humanitarian reasons), as the US and those other (27) NATO countries had, and to give those Russian people in Ukraine the same rights to form another independent state....

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