World Bulletin / News Desk
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Ukraine's decision to send armed forces into the east of the country instead of trying to establish a dialogue with the Russian-speaking population there was a "grave crime."
In a televised call-in with the nation, Putin also dismissed allegations that Russian forces were present in east Ukraine and emphasised the importance of international talks on the crisis taking place in Geneva.
Putin criticised the government in Kiev for what he said was a mishandling of the situation in eastern Ukraine that is "dragging the country into an abyss."
"Instead of realising that there is something wrong with the Ukrainian government and attempting dialogue, they made more threats of force ... this is another very grave crime by Kiev's current leaders," he said.
"I hope that they are able to realise what a pit, what an abyss the current authorities are in and dragging the country into."
He said the Geneva talks were very important and urged the government in Kiev to sit down to talks with Russian-speaking communities in the east.
"The start of today's talks are very important, because it is important that we together think about how to get out of the situation," Putin said.
He said claims that Russian forces were present in east Ukraine were "rubbish".
"It's all nonsense. There are no kinds of Russian units in eastern Ukraine. No special forces, no instructors. They are all local citizens."
"The presidential race is being run in an absolutely unacceptable way...If everything continues in this way, then of course we cannot recognise as legitimate what is happening and what will happen after May 25," he said in a televised call-in with the nation, referring to the date of the vote.
"Hope will not have to use force"
"The Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) granted the president the right to use military force in Ukraine. I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today's pressing issues via political and diplomatic means," Putin said.
"We must do everything to help these people (in eastern Ukraine) defend their rights and independently determine their own destiny. This is what we're going to push for."
Putin also said world powers should work out a new international mechanism for resolving problems, suggesting that in a unipolar world led by the United States there was little to restrain actors from using force.
"When there is a balance of power, then there is a desire to negotiate," Putin said.
Crimea switching to Rouble
Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the country would speed up the process of switching Crimea's banking system to the rouble as Moscow looks to integrate the peninsula it annexed last month.
Crimea has officially introduced the rouble and started paying out pensions and state salaries in the currency since the region voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia on March 16. Kiev and the West have denounced the annexation.
"The (situation) in the banking sector has not been completely resolved," Putin said in a televised call-in with the nation.
"We will try to talk with Ukrainian partners until we can find no solution. Turnover of the (Ukrainian) hryvnia is already restricted. The situation leaves no choice but to move to an accelerated circulation of the rouble."
Putin said it would take about a month to create a network and open up the needed number of accounts.
Putin said Russia had been forced to respond to NATO enlargement and that its annexation of Crimea, home to its Black Sea Fleet, was partly influenced by the Western military alliance's expansion into eastern Europe.
"When the infrastructure of a military bloc is moving toward our borders, it causes us some concerns and questions. We need to take some steps in response," Putin said in a televised call-in with the nation.
"Our decision on Crimea was partly due to ... considerations that if we do nothing, then at some point, guided by the same principles, NATO will drag Ukraine in and they will say: 'It doesn't have anything to do with you.'
Putin also said it would not be possible for Europe to stop buying Russian gas and that he was hopeful a deal could be reached with Ukraine on gas supply.
"We sell gas in European countries which have around 30-35 percent of their gas balance covered by supplies from Russia. Can they stop buying Russian gas? In my opinion it is impossible," he said.
Putin said that transit via Ukraine is the most dangerous element in Europe's gas supply system.
Impact from sanctions
Putin condemned Western sanctions imposed on a group of Russians and Ukrainians, saying they were aimed at people close to him and in one case had prevented a leading businessman's wife from paying for an operation.
He said the wife of Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko, the co-owner of gas producer Novatek, had been unable to pay because of a blocked bank card.
"Of course this is simply a violation of human rights. It has nothing to do with common sense," Putin said in a televised phone-in with people from across Russia.
He said the sanctions were aimed at attacking people close to the president.
"Probably it was an attempt to make me the main target of the sanctions. But as for these people - yes, these are my good acquaintances, my friends. They have earned their money, some of them even before we met," he said.
Russia has no intention of isolating itself on the world stage, Putin said, adding that other nations appeared reluctant to understand Russia's point of view.
"We are often faced with a lack of understanding of our position and sometimes even with an unwillingness to understand...(but) in general we do not intend to isolate ourselves," he said.Last Mod: 17 Nisan 2014, 14:43