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Key issues of Putin’s Press Conference on Tuesday, March 4

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 4, 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 4, 2014.

Putin on Ukraine: We signed no agreements with this state

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in a press conference on Tuesday that Russia is does not consider itself bound by the Budapest Memorandum on security assurances.

“When we point out that it is an unconstitutional coup, we are told, no, it’s not an armed seizure of power, it’s a revolution. Ok, if it’s a revolution, what does that mean? It’s difficult for me to disagree with the experts, who say there is a new country on the old territory. It’s just as it was in 1917, after the fall of the Russian Empire. And we haven’t signed any binding agreements with this new state.”

However, he did state that, under contracts with Gazprom, Ukraine is obliged to pay USD 2 billion. According to Putin, despite the discounts and the loan, Ukraine’s debt to Gazprom has already reached USD 1.5-1.6 billion, and if the country does not pay its February bills, the debt will rise to USD 2 billion.

Putin warns that he might not recognize the presidential elections in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Ukraine needs to hold presidential elections, but warned that Russia might not recognize them. This was his response when asked during the press conference he gave on Tuesday whether Russia will recognize Ukraine’s elections.

“It will depend on how they are carried out. If they take place under the same state of terror that we are now seeing in Kyiv, Russia will not recognize the result,” said Mr. Putin.

He stated that three days ago, he asked his government to renew contact with Kyiv. “Moreover, Dmitry Medvedev (the Russian PM) is in contact with Yatsenyuk, and Naryshkin (speaker of the State Duma) is in contact with Turchynov. However, all of our trade and economic agreements can only be discussed after the situation has normalized and the presidential elections have taken place.”

He also stated that Ukraine should hold a referendum on a new Constitution, and opined that this should be done after the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Answering the question who he thinks is a good candidate for the President, Putin said: “I don’t even know. I cannot say. It’s difficult to predict anything after events such as these. Under these conditions, anyone might jump out and get the position. Under conditions where people rightfully (and on this I agree with Maidan) demand fundamental changes in politics, anyone might get the position. There is a danger that some nationalist thug, some semi-fascist or an anti-Semite could pop up like devil from a snuff box and get to power. This danger does exist.”

Putin not concerned about war: We are not going to war. Maybe only if there is a need to protect people

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not going to war with the Ukrainian people, but does not preclude the possibility if there is a need to defend the people.

During the press conference, Putin was asked whether he was concerned about the possibility of war with Ukraine if Russia staged a military intervention on Ukrainian territory.“No, I am not concerned,” he answered. “We are not going to fight with Ukraine or the Ukrainian people. I want to be clear on this. If we have to take this decision, it’s only for the protection of the Ukrainian citizens.”

“Let the military forces try to shoot the civilians behing whom we stand. Not in front of, but behind. Let them try and shoot at their women and children. I want to see those in Ukraine who will give this order,” was his answer to a journalist who remarked that Ukraine has its own army.

Putin also stated that the situation in Ukraine is “stabilizing.” “We are not going to intervene, but I must stress that everyone needs to feel safe and everyone needs to have a right to determine the future of their country. I hope they [the new government] hurry up with measures to ensure this.” Putin has also stated that the military “exercises” that were carried out recently were planned and had nothing to do with the latest events in Ukraine.

Translated by Oksana Poliakova

Edited by Robin Rohrback and Mariana Budjeryn

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