Monday, March 10, 2014

He is not a Bully

The situation in Ukraine has a long history as well as a contemporary 
context. It can not be understood by looking at only one side or at 
the moment. It also can not be understood without paying attention to 
its location between Russia and the EU. The Ukrainian people like all 
peoples yearn for more democracy but face the danger of manipulation 
from outside.
March 4, 2014

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

How shall we do this? This is what I'd like to suggest: let's have a 
conversation, rather than an interview. Therefore, I would ask you to 
begin by stating all your questions, I will jot them down and try to 
answer them, and then we will have a more detailed discussion of the 
specifics that interest you most.

Let's begin.

Question: Mr President, I would like to ask (you took a lengthy pause, 
so we have quite a few questions by now) how you assess the events in 
Kiev? Do you think that the Government and the Acting President, who 
are currently in power in Kiev, are legitimate? Are you ready to 
communicate with them, and on what terms? Do you yourself think it 
possible now to return to the agreements of February 21, which we all 
talk about so often?

Question: Mr President, Russia has promised financial aid to Crimea 
and instructions were issued to the Finance Ministry yesterday. Is 
there a clear understanding of how much we are giving, where the money 
is coming from, on what terms and when? The situation there is very 

Question: When, on what terms and in what scope can military force be 
used in Ukraine? To what extent does this comply with Russia's 
international agreements? Did the military exercises that have just 
finished have anything to do with the possible use of force?

Question: We would like to know more about Crimea. Do you think that 
the provocations are over or that there remains a threat to the 
Russian citizens who are now in Crimea and to the Russian-speaking 
population? What are the general dynamics there - is the situation 
changing for the better or for the worse? We are hearing different 
reports from there.

Question: If you do decide to use force, have you thought through all 
the possible risks for yourself, for the country and for the world: 
economic sanctions, weakened global security, a possible visa ban or 
greater isolation for Russia, as western politicians are demanding?

Question: Yesterday the Russian stock market fell sharply in response 
to the Federation Council's vote, and the ruble exchange rates hit 
record lows. Did you expect such a reaction? What do you think are the 
possible consequences for the economy? Is there a need for any special 
measures now, and of what kind? For instance, do you think the Central 
Bank's decision to shift to a floating ruble exchange rate may have 
been premature? Do you think it should be revoked?

Vladimir Putin: Fine, let us stop here for now. I will begin, and then 
we will continue. Don't worry; I will try to answer as many questions 
as possible.

First of all, my assessment of what happened in Kiev and in Ukraine in 
general. There can only be one assessment: this was an 
anti-constitutional takeover, an armed seizure of power. Does anyone 
question this? Nobody does. There is a question here that neither I, 
nor my colleagues, with whom I have been discussing the situation in 
Ukraine a great deal over these past days, as you know - none of us 
can answer. The question is why was this done?

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that President 
Yanukovych, through the mediation of the Foreign Ministers of three 
European countries - Poland, Germany and France - and in the presence 
of my representative (this was the Russian Human Rights Commissioner 
Vladimir Lukin) signed an agreement with the opposition on February 
21. I would like to stress that under that agreement (I am not saying 
this was good or bad, just stating the fact) Mr Yanukovych actually 
handed over power. He agreed to all the opposition's demands: he 
agreed to early parliamentary elections, to early presidential 
elections, and to return to the 2004 Constitution, as demanded by the 
opposition. He gave a positive response to our request, the request of 
western countries and, first of all, of the opposition not to use 
force. He did not issue a single illegal order to shoot at the poor 
demonstrators. Moreover, he issued orders to withdraw all police 
forces from the capital, and they complied. He went to Kharkov to 
attend an event, and as soon as he left, instead of releasing the 
occupied administrative buildings, they immediately occupied the 
President's residence and the Government building - all that instead 
of acting on the agreement.

I ask myself, what was the purpose of all this? I want to understand 
why this was done. He had in fact given up his power already, and as I 
believe, as I told him, he had no chance of being re-elected. 
Everybody agrees on this, everyone I have been speaking to on the 
telephone these past few days. What was the purpose of all those 
illegal, unconstitutional actions, why did they have to create this 
chaos in the country? Armed and masked militants are still roaming the 
streets of Kiev. This is a question to which there is no answer. Did 
they wish to humiliate someone and show their power? I think these 
actions are absolutely foolish. The result is the absolute opposite of 
what they expected, because their actions have significantly 
destabilised the east and southeast of Ukraine.

Now over to how this situation came about.

In my opinion, this revolutionary situation has been brewing for a 
long time, since the first days of Ukraine's independence. The 
ordinary Ukrainian citizen, the ordinary guy suffered during the rule 
of Nicholas II, during the reign of Kuchma, and Yushchenko, and 
Yanukovych. Nothing or almost nothing has changed for the better. 
Corruption has reached dimensions that are unheard of here in Russia. 
Accumulation of wealth and social stratification - problems that are 
also acute in this country - are much worse in Ukraine, radically 
worse. Out there, they are beyond anything we can imagine. Generally, 
people wanted change, but one should not support illegal change.

Only constitutional means should be used on the post-Soviet space, 
where political structures are still very fragile, and economies are 
still weak. Going beyond the constitutional field would always be a 
cardinal mistake in such a situation. Incidentally, I understand those 
people on Maidan, though I do not support this kind of turnover. I 
understand the people on Maidan who are calling for radical change 
rather than some cosmetic remodelling of power. Why are they demanding 
this? Because they have grown used to seeing one set of thieves being 
replaced by another. Moreover, the people in the regions do not even 
participate in forming their own regional governments. There was a 
period in this country when the President appointed regional leaders, 
but then the local legislative authorities had to approve them, while 
in Ukraine they are appointed directly. We have now moved on to 
elections, while they are nowhere near this. And they began appointing 
all sorts of oligarchs and billionaires to govern the eastern regions 
of the country. No wonder the people do not accept this, no wonder 
they think that as a result of dishonest privatisation (just as many 
people think here as well) people have become rich and now they also 
have been brought to power.

For example, Mr Kolomoisky was appointed Governor of Dnepropetrovsk. 
This is a unique crook. He even managed to cheat our oligarch Roman 
Abramovich two or three years ago. Scammed him, as our intellectuals 
like to say. They signed some deal, Abramovich transferred several 
billion dollars, while this guy never delivered and pocketed the 
money. When I asked him [Abramovich]: "Why did you do it?" he said: "I 
never thought this was possible." I do not know, by the way, if he 
ever got his money back and if the deal was closed. But this really 
did happen a couple of years ago. And now this crook is appointed 
Governor of Dnepropetrovsk. No wonder the people are dissatisfied. 
They were dissatisfied and will remain so if those who refer to 
themselves as the legitimate authorities continue in the same fashion.

Most importantly, people should have the right to determine their own 
future, that of their families and of their region, and to have equal 
participation in it. I would like to stress this: wherever a person 
lives, whatever part of the country, he or she should have the right 
to equal participation in determining the future of the country.

Are the current authorities legitimate? The Parliament is partially, 
but all the others are not. The current Acting President is definitely 
not legitimate. There is only one legitimate President, from a legal 
standpoint. Clearly, he has no power. However, as I have already said, 
and will repeat: Yanukovych is the only undoubtedly legitimate 

There are three ways of removing a President under Ukrainian law: one 
is his death, the other is when he personally steps down, and the 
third is impeachment. The latter is a well-deliberated constitutional 
norm. It has to involve the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court 
and the Rada. This is a complicated and lengthy procedure. It was not 
carried out. Therefore, from a legal perspective this is an undisputed 

Moreover, I think this may be why they disbanded the Constitutional 
Court, which runs counter to all legal norms of both Ukraine and 
Europe. They not only disbanded the Constitutional Court in an 
illegitimate fashion, but they also - just think about it - instructed 
the Prosecutor General's Office to launch criminal proceedings against 
members of the Constitutional Court. What is that all about? Is this 
what they call free justice? How can you instruct anyone to start 
criminal proceedings? If a crime, a criminal offence, has been 
committed, the law enforcement agencies see this and react. But 
instructing them to file criminal charges is nonsense, it's monkey 

Now about financial aid to Crimea. As you may know, we have decided to 
organise work in the Russian regions to aid Crimea, which has turned 
to us for humanitarian support. We will provide it, of course. I 
cannot say how much, when or how - the Government is working on this, 
by bringing together the regions bordering on Crimea, by providing 
additional support to our regions so they could help the people in 
Crimea. We will do it, of course.

Regarding the deployment of troops, the use of armed forces. So far, 
there is no need for it, but the possibility remains. I would like to 
say here that the military exercises we recently held had nothing to 
do with the events in Ukraine. This was pre-planned, but we did not 
disclose these plans, naturally, because this was a snap inspection of 
the forces. combat readiness. We planned this a long time ago, the 
Defence Minister reported to me and I had the order ready to begin the 
exercise. As you may know, the exercises are over; I gave the order 
for the troops to return to their regular dislocations yesterday.

What can serve as a reason to use the Armed Forces? Such a measure 
would certainly be the very last resort.

First, the issue of legitimacy. As you may know, we have a direct 
appeal from the incumbent and, as I said, legitimate President of 
Ukraine, Mr Yanukovych, asking us to use the Armed Forces to protect 
the lives, freedom and health of the citizens of Ukraine.

What is our biggest concern? We see the rampage of reactionary forces, 
nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of 
Ukraine, including Kiev. I am sure you, members of the media, saw how 
one of the governors was chained and handcuffed to something and they 
poured water over him, in the cold of winter. After that, by the way, 
he was locked up in a cellar and tortured. What is all this about? Is 
this democracy? Is this some manifestation of democracy? He was 
actually only recently appointed to this position, in December, I 
believe. Even if we accept that they are all corrupt there, he had 
barely had time to steal anything.

And do you know what happened when they seized the Party of Regions 
building? There were no party members there at all at the time. Some 
two-three employees came out, one was an engineer, and he said to the 
attackers: "Could you let us go, and let the women out, please. I'm an 
engineer, I have nothing to do with politics." He was shot right there 
in front of the crowd. Another employee was led to a cellar and then 
they threw Molotov cocktails at him and burned him alive. Is this also 
a manifestation of democracy?

When we see this we understand what worries the citizens of Ukraine, 
both Russian and Ukrainian, and the Russian-speaking population in the 
eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. It is this uncontrolled crime 
that worries them. Therefore, if we see such uncontrolled crime 
spreading to the eastern regions of the country, and if the people ask 
us for help, while we already have the official request from the 
legitimate President, we retain the right to use all available means 
to protect those people. We believe this would be absolutely 
legitimate. This is our last resort.

Moreover, here is what I would like to say: we have always considered 
Ukraine not only a neighbour, but also a brotherly neighbouring 
republic, and will continue to do so. Our Armed Forces are comrades in 
arms, friends, many of whom know each other personally. I am certain, 
and I stress, I am certain that the Ukrainian military and the Russian 
military will not be facing each other, they will be on the same side 
in a fight.

Incidentally, the things I am talking about - this unity - is what is 
happening in Crimea. You should note that, thank God, not a single 
gunshot has been fired there; there are no casualties, except for that 
crush on the square about a week ago. What was going on there? People 
came, surrounded units of the armed forces and talked to them, 
convincing them to follow the demands and the will of the people 
living in that area. There was not a single armed conflict, not a 
single gunshot.

Thus the tension in Crimea that was linked to the possibility of using 
our Armed Forces simply died down and there was no need to use them. 
The only thing we had to do, and we did it, was to enhance the defence 
of our military facilities because they were constantly receiving 
threats and we were aware of the armed nationalists moving in. We did 
this, it was the right thing to do and very timely. Therefore, I 
proceed from the idea that we will not have to do anything of the kind 
in eastern Ukraine.

There is something I would like to stress, however. Obviously, what I 
am going to say now is not within my authority and we do not intend to 
interfere. However, we firmly believe that all citizens of Ukraine, I 
repeat, wherever they live, should be given the same equal right to 
participate in the life of their country and in determining its 

If I were in the shoes of those who consider themselves the legitimate 
authorities, I would not waste time and go through all the necessary 
procedures, because they do not have a national mandate to conduct the 
domestic, foreign and economic policy of Ukraine, and especially to 
determine its future.

Now, the stock market. As you may know, the stock market was jumpy 
even before the situation in Ukraine deteriorated. This is primarily 
linked to the policy of the US Federal Reserve, whose recent decisions 
enhanced the attractiveness of investing in the US economy and 
investors began moving their funds from the developing markets to the 
American market. This is a general trend and it has nothing to do with 
Ukraine. I believe it was India that suffered most, as well as the 
other BRICS states. Russia was hit as well, not as hard as India, but 
it was. This is the fundamental reason.

As for the events in Ukraine, politics always influence the stock 
market in one way or another. Money likes quiet, stability and calm. 
However, I think this is a tactical, temporary development and a 
temporary influence.

Your questions, please.

Question: Mr President, can you tell us if you expected such a harsh 
reaction to Russia's actions from your western partners? Could you 
give us any details of your conversations with your western partners? 
All we've heard was a report from the press service. And what do you 
think about the G8 summit in Sochi - will it take place?

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the expected reaction, whether the G8 will 
meet and about the conversations. Our conversations are confidential, 
some are even held over secure lines. Therefore, I am not authorised 
to disclose what I discussed with my partners. I will, however, refer 
to some public statements made by my colleagues from the west; without 
giving any names, I will comment on them in a general sense.

What do we pay attention to? We are often told our actions are 
illegitimate, but when I ask, "Do you think everything you do is 
legitimate?" they say "yes". Then, I have to recall the actions of the 
United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where they either acted 
without any UN sanctions or completely distorted the content of such 
resolutions, as was the case with Libya. There, as you may know, the 
resolution only spoke of closing the airspace for government aircraft, 
while it all ended with bomb attacks and special forces land 

Our partners, especially in the United Sates, always clearly formulate 
their own geopolitical and state interests and follow them with 
persistence. Then, using the principle "You're either with us or 
against us" they draw the whole world in. And those who do not join in 
get "beaten" until they do.

Our approach is different. We proceed from the conviction that we 
always act legitimately. I have personally always been an advocate of 
acting in compliance with international law. I would like to stress 
yet again that if we do make the decision, if I do decide to use the 
Armed Forces, this will be a legitimate decision in full compliance 
with both general norms of international law, since we have the appeal 
of the legitimate President, and with our commitments, which in this 
case coincide with our interests to protect the people with whom we 
have close historical, cultural and economic ties. Protecting these 
people is in our national interests. This is a humanitarian mission. 
We do not intend to subjugate anyone or to dictate to anyone. However, 
we cannot remain indifferent if we see that they are being persecuted, 
destroyed and humiliated. However, I sincerely hope it never gets to 

Question: How do you asses the reaction of the west to the events in 
Ukraine and their threats regarding Russia: are we facing the 
possibility of sanctions or withdrawal from the G8?

Vladimir Putin: Regarding sanctions. It is primarily those who intend 
to apply them that need to consider their consequences. I believe that 
in the modern world, where everything is interconnected and 
interdependent, it is possible to cause damage to another country, but 
this will be mutual damage and one should bear this in mind. This is 
one thing.

The second and the most important thing. I have already told you what 
motivates us. And what motivates our partners? They supported an 
unconstitutional armed take-over, declared these people legitimate and 
are trying to support them. By the way, despite all of this we have 
been patient and even ready to cooperate; we do not want to disrupt 
our cooperation. As you may know, a few days ago I instructed the 
Government to consider how we can maintain contacts even with those 
powers in Kiev that we do not consider legitimate in order to retain 
our ties in the economy and industry. We think our actions have been 
absolutely reasonable, while any threat against Russia is 
counterproductive and harmful.

As for the G8, I do not know. We will be ready to host the summit with 
our colleagues. If they do not want to come - so be it.

Question: Can I add about contacts? The way I see it, you consider the 
Prime Minister of Crimea Mr Aksyonov to be a legitimate representative 
of government authorities. Are you ready to have any contacts with 
those who consider themselves the legitimate authorities in Kiev?

Vladimir Putin: I have just spoken about it. You must have missed it.

Question: I mean, at the top level for a political solution.

Vladimir Putin: I do not have a partner at the top level there. There 
is no president there, and there cannot be one until the general 

As for Crimea, the Parliament there was formed in 2010, in December 
2010 if I remember correctly. There are 100 MPs representing six 
political parties. After the previous Prime Minister resigned, the 
Crimean Parliament, in compliance with the existing legislation and 
procedures elected a new Prime Minister at a session of the Crimean 
Supreme Council. He is definitely legitimate. They have complied with 
all the procedures envisaged by the law; there is not a single 
violation. However, when a few days ago a group of armed men tried to 
occupy the building of the Crimean Supreme Soviet, this caused the 
concern of the local residents. It seemed as though someone wanted to 
apply the Kiev scenario in Crimea and to launch a series of terrorist 
attacks and cause chaos. Naturally, this causes grave concern among 
the local residents. That is why they set up self-defence committees 
and took control over all the armed forces.

Incidentally, I was studying the brief yesterday to see what they took 
over - it is like a fortified zone. There are several dozen C-300 
units, several dozen air-defence missile systems, 22,000 service 
members and a lot more. However, as I said, this is all in the hands 
of the people of Crimea and without a single gunshot.

Question: Mr President, a clarification if I may. The people who were 
blocking the Ukrainian Army units in Crimea were wearing uniforms that 
strongly resembled the Russian Army uniform. Were those Russian 
soldiers, Russian military?

Vladimir Putin: Why don't you take a look at the post-Soviet states. 
There are many uniforms there that are similar. You can go to a store 
and buy any kind of uniform.

Question: But were they Russian soldiers or not?

Vladimir Putin: Those were local self-defence units.

Question: How well trained are they? If we compare them to the 
self-defence units in Kiev.

Vladimir Putin: My dear colleague, look how well trained the people 
who operated in Kiev were. As we all know they were trained at special 
bases in neighbouring states: in Lithuania, Poland and in Ukraine 
itself too. They were trained by instructors for extended periods. 
They were divided into dozens and hundreds, their actions were 
coordinated, they had good communication systems. It was all like 
clockwork. Did you see them in action? They looked very professional, 
like special forces. Why do you think those in Crimea should be any 

Question: In that case, can I specify: did we take part in training 
Crimean self-defence forces?

Vladimir Putin: No, we did not.

Question: How do you see the future of Crimea? Do you consider the 
possibility of it joining Russia?

Vladimir Putin: No, we do not. Generally, I believe that only 
residents of a given country who have the freedom of will and are in 
complete safety can and should determine their future. If this right 
was granted to the Albanians in Kosovo, if this was made possible in 
many different parts of the world, then nobody has ruled out the right 
of nations to self-determination, which, as far as I know, is fixed by 
several UN documents. However, we will in no way provoke any such 
decision and will not breed such sentiments.

I would like to stress that I believe only the people living in a 
given territory have the right to determine their own future.

Question: Two questions. You said that sending troops into Ukraine is 
an extreme measure, but you are nevertheless not ruling it out. Still, 
if Russian troops enter Ukraine, it could start a war. Doesn't that 
bother you?

And a second question. You say that Yanukovych did not give the order 
to shoot people. But somebody shot at the protestors. And clearly, 
these were snipers, trained snipers.

Vladimir Putin: You know, some people, including those who were 
recently among the protestors, have expressed the opinion that these 
were provocateurs from one of the opposition parties. Have you heard 

Reply: No, I have not heard this.

Vladimir Putin: Look at these materials - they are freely available. 
That is why it is very difficult to get to the bottom of the 
situation. But you and I saw for ourselves when the Berkut fighters 
stood there with their shields and were shot at - and those were not 
air weapons that were used against them but assault weapons that 
pierced their shields. That is something we saw for certain. As for 
who gave the orders - that I do not know. I only know what Mr 
Yanukovych told me. And he told me that he did not give any orders, 
and moreover, he gave instructions - after signing a corresponding 
agreement - to even withdraw all militia units from the capital.

If you want, I can tell you even more. He called me on the phone and I 
told him not to do it. I said, "You will have anarchy, you will have 
chaos in the capital. Think about the people." But he did it anyway. 
And as soon as he did it, his office was seized, and that of the 
government, and the chaos I had warned him about and which continues 
to this day, erupted.

Question: What about the first question? Are you concerned that a war 
could break out?

Vladimir Putin: I am not concerned, because we do not plan and we will 
not fight with the Ukrainian people.

Question: But there are Ukrainian troops, there is the Ukrainian army.

Vladimir Putin: Listen carefully. I want you to understand me clearly: 
if we make that decision, it will only be to protect Ukrainian 
citizens. And let's see those troops try to shoot their own people, 
with us behind them - not in the front, but behind. Let them just try 
to shoot at women and children! I would like to see those who would 
give that order in Ukraine.

Question: Can I ask a question, Mr President? Our colleagues, my 
colleagues, who are currently working in Ukraine, are saying 
practically every day that the situation for the Berkut fighters is 
only getting worse (perhaps with the exception of Crimea). In 
particular, in Kiev, there are injured Berkut officers who are in 
hospitals now, where nobody is treating them and they are not even 
getting fed. And their families, including elderly family members, 
they simply cannot leave the house, because they are not being 
allowed; there are barricades all around, they are being humiliated. 
Can you comment on this? And can Russia help these families and 

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this issue is of great concern to us. After all, 
these are not Russia's Interior Ministry officers, and we were not 
managing the situation there. But out of humanitarian considerations, 
it would be good if our human rights organisations got involved in 
this as well; we might ask Vladimir Lukin, either alone or together 
with his colleagues, representatives from France, Germany and Poland, 
with whom he participated in developing the well-known document of 
February 21, 2014, to go on location and see what is happening there 
with these Berkut officers, who have not broken any laws and acted in 
accordance with their orders. They are military service members, they 
stood there facing bullets, they were doused with fire and had Molotov 
cocktails thrown at them. They have been wounded and injured and are 
now in a hospital. It is even hard to imagine - even prisoners of war 
are being fed and treated. But they not only stopped treating them, 
they even stopped feeding them. And they have surrounded the building 
where these fighters. families live and are bullying them. I think 
that human rights organisations must pay attention to this. And we, 
for our part, are ready to provide them with medical care here in 

Question: Mr President, getting back to the West's reaction. Following 
the US Secretary of State's harsh statement, the Federation Council 
suggested that we recall our ambassador to the United States. Do you 
support this idea?

Vladimir Putin: The US Secretary of State is certainly an important 
person, but he is not the ultimate authority that determines the 
United States. foreign policy. We hear statements from various 
politicians and representatives of various political forces. This 
would be an extreme measure. If necessary, it will be used. But I 
really don't want to use it, because I think Russia is not the only 
one interested in cooperation with its partners on an international 
level and in such areas as economy, politics and foreign security; our 
partners are just as interested in this cooperation. It is very easy 
to destroy these instruments of cooperation and it would be very 
difficult to rebuild them.

Question: Russia got involved in Yanukovych's fate. How do you see his 
future role and his future destiny?

Vladimir Putin: You know, it is very hard for me to say; I have not 
analysed it carefully. I think he has no political future, and I have 
told him so. As for "getting involved in his fate" we did this on 
purely humanitarian grounds. Death is the easiest way for getting rid 
of a legitimate president, and I think that is what would have 
happened. I think they would have simply killed him. Incidentally, the 
question arises: what for?

After all, look at how it all began, what triggered these events. The 
formal reason was that he did not sign the European Union Association 
Agreement. Today, this seems like nonsense; it is ridiculous to even 
talk about. But I want to point out that he did not refuse to sign the 
association agreement. He said: "We have carefully analysed it, and 
its content does not correspond with our national interests. We cannot 
sharply increase energy prices for our people, because our people are 
already in a rather difficult position. We cannot do this, and that, 
and that. We cannot immediately break our economic ties with Russia, 
because our cooperation is very extensive."

I have already presented these figures: out of approximately 14 
billion [dollars] in export, approximately 5 billion represents second 
and third technological processing level products exported to Russia. 
In other words, just about all engineering products are exported to 
Russia; the West is not buying any Ukrainian products. And to take all 
this and break it apart, to introduce European technical standards in 
the Ukrainian economy, which, thankfully or unfortunately, we are not 
using at the moment. We will adopt those standards at some point, but 
currently, we do not have those standards in Russia. This means the 
next day, our relations and cooperation ties will be broken, 
enterprises will come to a standstill and unemployment will increase. 
And what did Yanukovych say? He said, "I cannot do this so suddenly, 
let's discuss this further." He did not refuse to sign it, he asked 
for a chance to discuss this document some more, and then all this 
craziness began.

And why? Did he do something outside the scope of his authority? He 
acted absolutely within the scope of his authority; he did not 
infringe on anything. It was simply an excuse to support the forces 
opposing him in a fight for power. Overall, this is nothing special. 
But did it really need to be taken to this level of anarchy, to an 
unconstitutional overthrow and armed seizure of power, subsequently 
plunging the nation into the chaos where it finds itself today? I 
think this is unacceptable. And it is not the first time our Western 
partners are doing this in Ukraine. I sometimes get the feeling that 
somewhere across that huge puddle, in America, people sit in a lab and 
conduct experiments, as if with rats, without actually understanding 
the consequences of what they are doing. Why did they need to do this? 
Who can explain this? There is no explanation at all for it.

The same thing happened during the first Maidan uprising, when 
Yanukovych was blocked from power. Why did we need that third round of 
elections? In other words, it was turned into a farce - Ukraine's 
political life was turned into a farce. There was no compliance with 
the Constitution at all. You see, we are now teaching people that if 
one person can violate any law, anyone else can do the same, and 
that's what causes chaos. That is the danger. Instead, we need to 
teach our society to follow other traditions: traditions of respecting 
the main law of the nation, the Constitution, and all other laws. Of 
course, we will not always succeed, but I think acting like this - 
like a bull in a china shop is counterproductive and very dangerous.


Question: Mr President, Turchynov is illegitimate, from your point of 

Vladimir Putin: As President, yes.

Question: But the Rada is partially legitimate.

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Question: Are Yatsenyuk and the Cabinet legitimate? And if Russia is 
concerned about the growing strength of radical elements, they grow 
stronger every time they find themselves facing a hypothetical enemy, 
which in their view, they currently consider Russia and Russia's 
position of being ready to send in troops. Question: does it make 
sense and is it possible to hold talks with moderate forces in the 
Ukrainian government, with Yatsenyuk, and is he legitimate?

Vladimir Putin: Listen, it seems like you didn't hear what I have 
said. I already said that three days ago, I gave instructions to the 
Government to renew contacts at the government level with their 
colleagues in the corresponding ministries and departments in Ukraine, 
in order not to disrupt economic ties, to support them in their 
attempts to reconstruct the economy. Those were my direct instructions 
to the Russian Government. Moreover, Mr Medvedev is in contact with 
[Arseniy] Yatsenyuk. And I know that Sergei Naryshkin, as speaker of 
the Russian parliament, is in contact with [Oleksandr] Turchynov. But, 
I repeat, all our trade and economic and other ties, our humanitarian 
ties, can be developed in full only after the situation is normalised 
and presidential elections are held.

Question: Gazprom has already said that it is reverting to its old gas 
prices beginning in April.

Vladimir Putin: Gazprom could not have said that; you were not 
listening carefully or it did not express itself clearly. Gazprom is 
not reverting to the old prices. It simply does not want to extend the 
current discounts, which it had agreed to apply or not apply on a 
quarterly basis. Even before all these events, even before they hit 
the crisis point. I know about the negotiations between Gazprom and 
its partners. Gazprom and the Government of the Russian Federation 
agreed that Gazprom would introduce a discount by reducing gas prices 
to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres. The Government of Russia provides 
the first tranche of the loan, which is formally not a loan but a bond 
purchase - a quasi-loan, $3 billion dollars in the first stage. And 
the Ukrainian side undertakes to fully repay its debt that arose in 
the second half of last year and to make regular payments for what 
they are consuming - for the gas. The debt has not been repaid, 
regular payments are not being made in full.

Moreover, if the Ukrainian partners fail to make the February payment, 
the debt will grow even bigger. Today it is around $1.5-1.6 billion. 
And if they do not fully pay for February, it will be nearly $2 
billion. Naturally, in these circumstances, Gazprom says, "Listen 
guys, since you don't pay us anyway, and we are only seeing an 
increase in your debt, let's lock into the regular price, which is 
still reduced.. This is a purely commercial component of Gazprom's 
activities, which plans for revenues and expenditures in its 
investment plans like any other major company. If they do not receive 
the money from their Ukrainian partners on time, then they are 
undercutting their own investment programmes; this is a real problem 
for them. And incidentally, this does not have to do with the events 
in Ukraine or any politics. There was an agreement: "We give you money 
and reduced gas rates, and you give us regular payments." They gave 
them money and reduced gas rates, but the payments are not being made. 
So naturally, Gazprom says, "Guys, that won't work".

Question: Mr President, [German Federal Chancellor] Merkel's Press 
Service said after your telephone conversation that you had agreed to 
send an international fact-finding mission to Ukraine and set up a 
contact group.

Vladimir Putin: I said that we have people who have the training and 
skills needed to be able to examine this issue and discuss it with our 
German colleagues. This is all possible. I gave the instruction 
accordingly to our Foreign Minister, who was to or will meet with the 
German Foreign Minister, Mr Steinmeier, yesterday or today to discuss 
this matter.

Question: All eyes are on Crimea at the moment of course, but we see 
what is happening in other parts of Ukraine too, in the east and 
south. We see what is happening in Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk and 
Odessa. People are raising the Russian flag over government buildings 
and appealing to Russia for aid and support. Will Russia respond to 
these events?

Vladimir Putin: Do you think we have not made any response? I think 
we've just spent the last hour discussing this response. In some cases 
though, the developments taking place are unexpected in my view. I 
will not go into the specific details of what I am referring to here, 
but the reaction that we are seeing from people is understandable, in 
principle. Did our partners in the West and those who call themselves 
the government in Kiev now not foresee that events would take this 
turn? I said to them over and over: Why are you whipping the country 
into a frenzy like this? What are you doing? But they keep on pushing 
forward. Of course people in the eastern part of the country realise 
that they have been left out of the decision-making process.

Essentially, what is needed now is to adopt a new constitution and put 
it to a referendum so that all of Ukraine's citizens can take part in 
the process and influence the choice of basic principles that will 
form the foundations of their country's government. But this is not 
our affair of course. This is something for the Ukrainian people and 
the Ukrainian authorities to decided one way or another. I think that 
once a legitimate government is in place and a new president and 
parliament are elected, which is what is planned, this will probably 
go ahead. If I were them, I would return to the matter of adopting a 
constitution and, as I said, putting it to a referendum so that 
everyone can have their say on it, cast their vote, and then everyone 
will have to respect it. If people feel they are left out of this 
process, they will never agree with it and will keep on fighting it. 
Who needs this kind of thing? But as I said, this is all not our 

Question: Will Russia recognise the planned presidential election that 
will take place in Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin: Let's see how it goes. If it is accompanied by the 
same kind of terror that we are seeing now in Kiev, we will not 
recognise it.

Question: I want to come back to the West's reaction. As all this 
tough talk continues, we have the Paralympics opening in a few days. 
time in Sochi. Are these Games at risk of ending up on the brink of 
disruption, at least as far as international media coverage goes?

Vladimir Putin: I don't know, I think it would be the height of 
cynicism to put the Paralympics at risk. We all know that this is an 
international sports event at which people with disabilities can show 
their capabilities, prove to themselves and the entire world that they 
are not people with limitations, but on the contrary, people with 
unlimited possibilities, and demonstrate their achievements in sport. 
If there are people ready to try to disrupt this event, it would show 
that these are people for whom there really is nothing sacred.

Question: I want to ask about the hypothetical possibility of using 
the military. People in the West have said that if Russia makes such a 
decision, it would violate the Budapest Memorandum, under which the 
United States and some NATO partners consecrated territorial integrity 
of Ukraine in exchange for its promise to give up nuclear weapons. If 
developments take this turn, could global players intervene in this 
local conflict and turn it into a global conflict? Have you taken 
these risks into account?

Vladimir Putin: Before making public statements, and all the more so 
before taking practical steps, we give issues due thought and 
attention and try to foresee the consequences and reactions that the 
various potential players could have.

As for the Memorandum that you mentioned, you said you are from 
Reuters, is that right?

Response: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: How do the public and political circles in your 
country view these events that have taken place? It is clear after all 
that this was an armed seizure of power. That is a clear and evident 
fact. And it is clear too that this goes against the Constitution. 
That is also a clear fact, is it not?

Response: I live in Russia.

Vladimir Putin: Good on you! You should join the diplomatic service; 
you'd make a good diplomat. Diplomats. tongues, as we know, are there 
to hide their thoughts. So, we say that what we are seeing is an 
anti-constitutional coup, and we get told, no, it isn't. You have 
probably heard plenty of times now that this was not an 
anti-constitutional coup and not an armed seizure of power, but a 
revolution. Have you heard this?

Response: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, but if this is revolution, what does this mean? 
In such a case it is hard not to agree with some of our experts who 
say that a new state is now emerging in this territory. This is just 
like what happened when the Russian Empire collapsed after the 1917 
revolution and a new state emerged. And this would be a new state with 
which we have signed no binding agreements.

Question: I want to clarify a point. You said that if the USA imposes 
sanctions, this would deal a blow to both economies. Does this imply 
that Russia might impose counter-sanctions of its own, and if so, 
would they be a symmetrical response?

You spoke about gas discounts too. But there was also the agreement to 
buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian bonds. Ukraine received the first 
tranche at the end of last year. Has payment of the remaining money 
been suspended? If Russia provides aid, on what specific economic and 
political terms will this be done? And what political and economic 
risks are you taking into consideration in this case?

Vladimir Putin: To answer your question, we are in principle ready to 
look at taking the steps needed to make the other tranches available 
with regard to the purchase of bonds. But our Western partners have 
asked us not to do this. They have asked us to work together through 
the IMF to encourage the Ukrainian authorities to carry out the 
reforms needed to bring about recovery in the Ukrainian economy. We 
will continue working in this direction. But given that Naftogaz of 
Ukraine is not paying Gazprom now, the Government is considering 
various options.

Question: Mr President, is the dynamic of events in Ukraine changing 
for the better or for the worse?

Vladimir Putin: Overall, I think it is gradually starting to level 
out. We absolutely must send the signal to people in Ukraine's 
southeast that they can feel safe, and know that they will be able to 
take part in the general political process of stabilising the country.

Question: You have made several mentions now of future legitimate 
elections in Ukraine. Who do you see as compromise candidate? Of 
course you will say that this for the Ukrainian people to decide, but 
I ask you all the same.

Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I really don't know.

Response: It seems that the people also don't know, because no matter 
who you talk to, everyone seems to be at a loss.

Vladimir Putin: I really can't say. You know, it's hard to make 
predictions after events of this kind. I have already said that I do 
not agree with this method of taking power and removing the incumbent 
authorities and president, and I strongly oppose this kind of method 
in Ukraine and in the post-Soviet area in general. I oppose this 
because this kind of method does not inculcate legal culture, respect 
for the law. If one person can get away with doing this, it means that 
everyone is allowed to try, and this only means chaos. You have to 
understand that this kind of chaos is the worst possible thing for 
countries with a shaky economy and unstable political system. In this 
kind of situation you never know what kind of people events will bring 
to the fore. Just recall, for example, the role that [Ernst] Roehm's 
storm troopers played during Hitler's rise to power. Later, these 
storm troopers were liquidated, but they played their part in bringing 
Hitler to power. Events can take all kinds of unexpected turns.

Let me say again that in situations when people call for fundamental 
political reform and new faces at the top, and with full justification 
too - and in this I agree with the Maidan - there is a risk too that 
you'll suddenly get some upstart nationalist or semi-fascist lot 
sprout up, like the genie suddenly let out of the bottle - and we see 
them today, people wearing armbands with something resembling 
swastikas, still roaming around Kiev at this moment - or some 
anti-Semite or other. This danger is there too.

Question: Just today, incidentally, the Ukrainian envoy to the UN said 
that the crimes committed by Bandera's followers were falsified by the 
Soviet Union. With May 9 coming closer, we can see now who is in power 
there today. Should we even have any contacts with them at all?

Vladimir Putin: We need to have contact with everyone except for 
obvious criminals, but as I said, in this kind of situation, there is 
always the risk that events of this kind will bring people with 
extreme views to the fore, and this of course has serious consequences 
for the country.

Question: You said that we should make contact with everyone. Yulia 
Tymoshenko was planning it seems, to come to Moscow.

Vladimir Putin: As you know, we always worked quite productively with 
all of the different Ukrainian governments, no matter what their 
political colour. We worked with Leonid Kuchma, and with [Viktor] 
Yushchenko. When I was Prime Minister, I worked with Tymoshenko. I 
visited her in Ukraine and she came here to Russia. We had to deal 
with all kinds of different situations in our work to manage our 
countries. economies. We had our differences, but we also reached 
agreements. Overall it was constructive work. If she wants to come to 
Russia, let her come. It's another matter that she is no longer prime 
minister now. In what capacity will she come? But I personally have no 
intention of stopping her from coming to Russia.

Question: Just a brief question: who do you think is behind this coup, 
as you called it, in Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin: As I said before, I think this was a well-prepared 
action. Of course there were combat detachments. They are still there, 
and we all saw how efficiently they worked. Their Western instructors 
tried hard of course. But this is not the real problem. If the 
Ukrainian government had been strong, confident, and had built a 
stable system, no nationalists would have been able to carry out those 
programs and achieve the results that we see now.

The real problem is that none of the previous Ukrainian governments 
gave proper attention to people's needs. Here in Russia we have many 
problems, and many of them are similar to those in Ukraine, but they 
are not as serious as in Ukraine. Average per capita [monthly] income 
in Russia, for example, is 29,700 rubles, but in Ukraine, if we 
convert it into rubles, it is 11,900 rubles, I think - almost three 
times lower than in Russia. The average pension in Russia is 10,700 
rubles, but in Ukraine it is 5,500 rubles - twice lower than in 
Russia. Great Patriotic War veterans in Russia receive almost as much 
as the average worker each month. In other words, there is a 
substantial difference in living standards. This was what the various 
governments should have been focusing on right from the start. Of 
course they needed to fight crime, nepotism, clans and so on, 
especially in the economy. People see what is going on, and this 
creates lack of confidence in the authorities.

This has continued as several generations of modern Ukrainian 
politicians have come and gone, and the ultimate result is that people 
are disappointed and want to see a new system and new people in power. 
This was the main source of fuel for the events that took place. But 
let me say again: a change of power, judging by the whole situation, 
was probably necessary in Ukraine, but it should have taken place only 
through legitimate means, in respect for and not in violation of the 
current Constitution.

Question: Mr President, if Crimea holds a referendum and the people 
there vote to secede from Ukraine, that is, if the majority of the 
region's residents vote for secession, would you support it?

Vladimir Putin: You can never use the conditional mood in politics. I 
will stick to that rule.

Question: Is Yanukovych even still alive? There have been rumours that 
he died.

Vladimir Putin: I have seen him once since he arrived in Russia. That 
was just two days ago. He was alive and well and wishes you the same. 
He'll still have a chance of catching a cold at the funeral of those 
who are spreading these rumours of his demise.

Question: Mr President, what mistakes do you think Yanukovych made 
over these last months as the situation intensified in Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin: I would rather not answer this question, not because I 
do not have an opinion to express, but because I do not think it would 
be proper on my part. You have to understand, after all.

Question: Do you sympathise with him?

Vladimir Putin: No, I have completely different feelings. Anyone in 
this office bears an enormous responsibility on their shoulders as 
head of state, and they have rights and also obligations. But the 
biggest obligation of all is to carry out the will of the people who 
have entrusted you with the country, acting within the law. And so we 
need to analyse, did he do everything that the law and the voters. 
mandate empowered him to do? You can analyse this yourselves and draw 
your own conclusions.

Question: But what feelings do you have for him? You said "not 
sympathy, but other feelings." What feelings exactly?

Vladimir Putin: Let's talk later.

Question: You said just two questions back that we must above all send 
a clear signal to people in the south and southeast of Ukraine. The 
southeast, that's understandable, but.

Vladimir Putin: We need to make our position clear to everyone, 

We need to be heard by all of Ukraine's people. We have no enemies in 
Ukraine. Let me say again that Ukraine is a friendly country. Do you 
know how many people came from Ukraine to Russia last year? 3.3 
million came, and of that number almost 3 million people came to 
Russia for work. These people are working here - around 3 million 
people. Do you know how much money they send back home to Ukraine to 
support their families? Count up the average wage of 3 million people. 
This comes to billions of dollars and makes a big contribution to 
Ukraine's GDP. This is no joking matter. We welcome all of them, and 
among the people coming here to work are also many from western 
Ukraine. They are all equal in our eyes, all brothers to us.

Question: This is just what I wanted to ask about. We are hearing 
above all about the southeast of Ukraine at the moment, which is 
understandable, but there are ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking 
people living in western Ukraine too, and their situation is probably 
even worse. They probably cannot raise their heads at all and are a 
downtrodden minority there. What can Russia do to help them?

Vladimir Putin: Our position is that if the people who call themselves 
the government now hope to be considered a civilised government, they 
must ensure the safety of all of their citizens, no matter in which 
part of the country, and we of course will follow this situation 

Thank you. Vladimir Putin

No comments: