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Putin: Deploying military force is last resort, but we reserve right

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, according to RT.

Putin, who was given a mandate by the Russian senate to use military force to protect civilians in Ukraine, said there is no need for such an action yet.

Putin cited the actions of radical activists in Ukraine, including the chaining of a governor to a stage as public humiliation and the killing of a technician during an opposition siege of the Party of Regions HQ, as justification for Russia to be concerned for the lives and well-being of people in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russia is not planning to go to war with the Ukrainian people, Putin stressed, when a journalist asked if he was afraid of war. But Russian troops would prevent any attempts to target Ukrainian civilians, should they be deployed.

Putin dismissed the notion that the uniformed armed people without insignia who are currently present in Crimea are Russian soldiers. He said they are members of the Crimean self-defense forces and that they are no better equipped and trained than some radical fighters who took part in the ousting of Yanukovich.

He assured that the surprise military drills in Russia’s west which ended on Tuesday had nothing to do with the Ukrainian situation.

Sanction threats are counterproductive

Asked about criticism of Russia over its stance on Ukraine, Putin dismissed the accusations that Russia is acting illegitimately. He stated that even if Russia does use force in Ukraine, it would not violate international law.

At the same time he accused the United States and its allies of having no regard to legitimacy when they use military force in pursuit of their own national interests.

As for the sanctions Russia faces over Ukraine, Putin said those threatening them should think of the consequences to themselves if they follow that path. In an interconnected world a country may hurt another country if it wishes, but it would be damaged too.

Threats are counterproductive in this situation, Putin warned. He added that if G8 members choose not to go to Sochi for a planned G8 summit, that would be up to them.

Putin sympathies with Maidan protesters, rejects coup

Putin stressed that the Ukrainian people had a legitimate reason to protest against Yanukovich’s power, considering the overwhelming corruption and other faults of his presidency.

But he objected to the illegitimate way his ouster took place, because it undermined the political stability in the country.

He said that while he personally was not fond of months-long streets protests as a means to pressure the government, he sympathized with the Maidan demonstration members, who were genuinely outraged with the situation in Ukraine.

But at the same time he warned that what happens in Ukraine now may be a replacement of one group of crooks with another, citing the appointments of certain wealthy businessmen with questionable reputations.

Asked about the presence of snipers during the violent confrontation in Kiev last month, Putin said he was not aware of any order from the Yanukovich government to use firearms against the protesters. He alleged that the shooters could have been provocateurs from one of the opposition forces. He added that what he was sure of is the fact that police officers were shot at with lethal arms during the confrontation.

Yanukovich is certainly powerless in Ukraine, but legally speaking he is the legitimate president of the country, Putin said. The way the new authorities in Kiev replaced him did not enhance their credibility.

Asked if he felt for Yanukovich, Putin said “Oh, no. I have absolutely different feelings.” But he declined to publicly explain what those were. He also refrained from commenting on what mistakes he saw in Yanukovich’s actions, explaining that it would not be proper for him to do so.

At the same time Putin does not see any political future for Yanukovich, which he told the ousted Ukrainian president himself. He added that Russia allowed him to come to its territory for humanitarian reasons, because if he remained in Ukraine he could have been summarily executed.

 

Ibrahim Zaaboub

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