At today’s press conference the Russian President stated that ‘deploying military force is last resort but it is possible’. Armed intervention would also be legitimate because legitimate president Yanukovych appealed to Russia, he said.
‘There is a debauch of neo-Nazis, nationalists and anti-Semites in Ukraine,’ Mr Putin stressed. When the office of the Party of Regions was being seized, protesters ‘shot one person dead, and all could see’ and, throwing Molotov cocktails at another, ‘burnt him alive’, he added.
The Russian leader said that his country has not deployed any troops in Crimea recently and has no plans to annex the peninsula. Ukrainian officials and media have claimed in recent days that clandestine Russian army troops without insignias were deployed in the southeastern Ukrainian region, which has a majority ethnic Russian population.
When asked about the identity of the troops, Putin told a press conference that they are ‘local militias’. They are wearing Russian-style fatigues because such attire is available in army shops across the former Soviet Union, Mr Putin said.
Not war, just protection
Russia will not go to war with the people of Ukraine, but will use its troops to protect citizens, if radicals with clout in Kiev now try to use violence against Ukrainian civilians, particularly ethnic Russians, Putin told the media.
‘If we see this lawlessness starting in eastern regions, if the people ask us for help – in addition to a plea from a legitimate president, which we already have – then we reserve the right to use all the means we possess to protect those citizens. And we consider it quite legitimate,’ he said.
Being asked whether he cared about a war that could start Mr Putin answered: ‘No, I don’t care. They’d [Ukrainian militants – Belsat] better not shoot at their nationals: our people would be behind them!’
Maidan had a point
Maidan was right demanding a replacement of the country’s leaders, considering the overwhelming corruption and other faults of his presidency.Putin said. But at the same time he warned that what happens in Ukraine now may be a replacement of one group of crooks with another.
Responding to a question on threats from the West, he replied ‘those who want to take sanctions will have to face the consequences,’ continuing, ‘I think in the modern world where everybody depends on everybody, and everything is linked, you can do damage to each other. And that can go both ways.’
Where is Yanukovych?
Mr Putin confirmed that Viktor Yanukovych was alive and well, despite rumours that he had suffered a heart attack. He added that if Yanukovych had remained in Ukraine he would have been killed. According to him, he met with Ukrainian President two days ago in Russia. ‘Yanukovych is alive and he may just as well get cold at the funeral of those who wished him ill,’ he said.