The Russian leader accused the West of deliberately trying to lure Russia into war and ignoring Russia' security concerns over Ukraine. Speaking in
The Russian leader accused the West of deliberately trying to lure Russia into war and ignoring Russia’ security concerns over Ukraine. Speaking in his first public statement on the crisis for almost six weeks, Mr Putin said: “It’s already clear now … that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored.” Mr Putin also described a hypothetical scenario where Ukraine became a NATO member and then attempted to recapture Crimea, a territory Russia seized in 2014.
He added: “Let’s imagine Ukraine is a NATO member and starts these military operations.
“Are we supposed to go to war with the NATO bloc?
“Has anyone given that any thought? Apparently not.”
Mr Putin also implied that Washington is not primarily concerned with the security of Ukraine, but instead is trying to draw Russia into an “armed conflict”.
He said: “In this sense, Ukraine itself is just an instrument to achieve this goal.
“This can be done in different ways, by drawing us into some kind of armed conflict and, with the help of their allies in Europe, forcing the introduction against us of those harsh sanctions they are talking about now in the U.S.”
The comments were made at a news conference with the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, who was visiting Russia in an attempt to calm the crisis.
Moscow has demanded that NATO promise it will not allow Ukraine to join the defensive alliance but NATO are yet to agree to the demands.
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Russia has so far built up 100,000 troops on the country’s border with Ukraine, sparking fears of an invasion.
In response, NATO has stationed roughly 4,000 troops in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, supported by tanks, air defences and intelligence and surveillance units.
A total of 8,500 US troops have also been put on heightened alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe, the Pentagon has said.
Hitting back at Mr Putin’s remark, a senior State Department official told Reuters: “If President Putin truly does not intend war or regime change, the Secretary told Foreign Minister Lavrov then this is the time to pull back troops and heavy weaponry and engage in a serious discussion.”
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Mr Orban said he believed that it would be possible to strike a compromise with Russia and “guarantee peace”.
He said: “I got convinced today that the existing differences in positions can be bridged and it is possible to sign an agreement that would guarantee peace, guarantee Russia’s security and is acceptable for NATO member states as well.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kiev on Tuesday, accusing Russia of choosing the “path of conflict”.
He said: “It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy.
“And I believe that is still possible.
“We are keen to engage in dialogue, of course we are, but we have the sanctions ready, we’re providing military support and we will also intensify our economic cooperation.”
He added: “There are 200,000 men and women under arms in Ukraine, they will put up a very, very fierce and bloody resistance.
“I think that parents, mothers in Russia should reflect on that fact and I hope very much that President Putin steps back from the path of conflict and that we engage in dialogue.”
Mr Johnson is reportedly due to meet with Mr Putin later this week.