Ahead of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, which took place over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an interview to German TV channel ARD, in which he disputed all the accusations against him in relation to Ukraine crisis.
When asked about the West's reaction in implementing sanctions against Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea, Putin rebuked all the allegations.
“We believe that this sort of reaction was totally disproportionate to what had happened.
"Whenever I hear complaints about Russia violating international law I am simply amazed. What is international law? It is first of all the United Nations Charter, international practice and its interpretation by relevant international institutions,” he said.
“Its main point was that when making a decision concerning their self-determination, the people living in a certain territory need not ask the opinion of the central authorities of the state where they presently live. They do not need the approval by the central authorities, by the government, to take the necessary measures for self-determination. That is the central point. And what was done in Crimea was not in any way different from what had been done in Kosovo,” Putin added.
Putin conceded that Russian Armed Forces were involved in Crimea, but spoke in usual rhetoric about the “need to protect the local population.”
“Yes, I make no secret of it, it is a fact and we never concealed that our Armed Forces, let us be clear, blocked Ukrainian armed forces stationed in Crimea, not to force anybody to vote, which is impossible, but to avoid bloodshed, to give the people an opportunity to express their own opinion about how they want to shape their future and the future of their children. Kosovo declared its independence by parliamentary decision alone. In Crimea, people did not just make a parliamentary decision, they held a referendum, and its results were simply stunning. What is democracy? Both you and me know the answer well. What is demos? Demos is people, and democracy is people's right. In this particular case, it is the right to self-determination,” the Russian President told the interviewer.
Putin was also asked about the increasing number of military encounters between Russia and NATO, which is reminiscent of a Cold War. The Russian President cited the West as the reason for changed security climate.
“We have witnessed two waves of NATO expansion since 2001. If I remember correctly, seven countries – Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – joined NATO in 2004. Two more countries joined in 2009. Those were significant geopolitical game changers. Furthermore, the number of military bases is growing. Does Russia have military bases around the world? NATO and the United States have military bases scattered all over the globe, including in areas close to our borders, and their number is growing. Moreover, just recently it was decided to deploy special operations forces, again in close proximity to our borders,” Putin said.
“In 1992, we suspended the flights of our strategic aircrafts and they remained at their air bases for many years. During this time, our US partners continued the flights of their nuclear aircrafts to the same areas as before, including areas close to our borders. Therefore, several years ago, seeing no positive developments, no one is ready to meet us halfway, we resumed the flights of our strategic aviation to remote areas. That’s all,” he added.