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Putin admits to aggression in Ukraine but leaves loopholes for more

Even as Vladimir Putin is being praised by some for having the Russian parliament rescind its authorization for the use of force in Ukraine, the Kremlin leader has admitted that he has done just that, left himself a variety of loopholes to do more, and promised to continue to “defend” ethnic Russians and others in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Speaking in Vienna on Tuesday, Putin said that he would “not conceal” the fact that Moscow “used our armed forces in order to guarantee the freedom of the expression of the will of Crimeans” and to “block certain armed formations of the Ukrainian army,” his clearest acknowledgement yet of what preceded the Anschluss of Crimea.

As Andrey Illarionov demonstrated in an Ekho Moskvy blogpost yesterday, Putin’s words show that Russian action in Crimea fall under the United Nations definition of aggression and thus constitute “a public confirmation” of his “direct participation” in the launching and conduct of “an aggressive war against Ukraine” in violation of international and Russian law.

The Russian parliament’s earlier authorization does not affect that, and its decision, at Putin’s request, to rescind its earlier action does not end the threat. First, Putin could get the parliament to reverse itself again anytime in a matter of hours. Second, the parliament’s earlier, 2009 authorization of such use of force in this way remains very much in effect, officials say.

And third and perhaps most ominously, the Russian president, even as he made his acknowledgement about the use of force in Crimea, did not back away from the arguments he has used to justify the use of that force. Indeed, if anything, his words suggest that he has adopted an even more expansive definition of what he calls “the broad Russian world.”

Putin stressed that he and his government will always defend “ethnic Russian in Ukraine and that part of the Ukrainian population and people which feels an indivisible connection with Russia not only ethnically but culturally and linguistically and feels itself to be part of the broad Russian world.”

Courtesy of Window on Eurasia

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