Putin: No, really, we aren’t going to annex Crimea

posted at 8:01 am on March 4, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Vladimir Putin held a press conference near Moscow today to get a few things straightened out with the media and the world. Some people may be under the impression that Russia has invaded Crimea, what with all of the planes and ships landing there disgorging troops, and with the heavy Russian artillery rolling down the road to Sevastopol. Those aren’t Russian forces, Putin insists, but just Crimean boys looking to secure their homeland against coup plotters in Kyiv. No, seriously:

Russian soldiers have not occupied government buildings and surrounded Ukrainian military bases on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Tuesday during a news conference near Moscow at which he gave an account of recent events that contradicts reports from the ground.

Instead, he told reporters that the heavily armed men are “local self-defense forces.”

Well, maybe they’re not all just good Crimean boys defending their homeland:

What’s more, anything Russia has done, Putin said without offering specifics, has been part of a “humanitarian mission” to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.

But even as he said that no Russian troops have been involved in the latest events in Crimea, Putin drew comparisons that would seem to indicate they had been. “Our actions are often described by the West as not legitimate, but look at U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya,” he said, according to a BBC translation of his comments. “Our actions are legitimate from the point of view of international law, because Ukraine’s legitimate president asked us for help. … Defending these people is in our interests … we do not want to ‘enslave’ anyone.”

You remember “Ukraine’s legitimate president,” yes? He’s the one who had unarmed protesters shot in the street, where 77 or more were killed, and had several opulent palaces with their own private zoos — at least before he fled the country. The request from Viktor Yanukovich to Putin for the assistance came from Rostov-on-Don, the Russian city to which he fled.

Don’t worry, Putin assured the media. Those Russian forces who aren’t in Crimea even though we acted on Yanulovich’s request and are totally focused on humanitarian efforts to imprison Ukrainian military forces will not be the vanguard of an attempt by Moscow to take back Crimea. Trust him!

Russia is not considering trying to make Crimea a part of Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. Only people who live in Crimea can determine their future, he said. …

Putin also said that the shaky new government has destabilized the southern and eastern parts of the country since taking power, and that Yanukovych, who is wanted in Ukraine, did not give orders to shoot demonstrators during the protests that eventually led to his ouster.

Then, turning to the troop buildup in the Russian-dominated autonomous region of Crimea, Putin said Ukraine is a brotherly neighbor of Russia — and that the troops there have much in common. He also said Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea.

He said any use of military force in Ukraine would be the last resort.

Russian troops have already invaded Crimea, so clearly military force came as a first resort. And it looks like a first resort in other Russian-heavy areas of Ukraine, too:

But if Russian-speaking citizens in the east of Ukraine ask for Russia’s help, Russia has the right “to take all measures to protect the rights of those people,” Putin said.

Military action, he said, would be “completely legitimate” because it was at the request of Yanukovych and in line with Russia’s duty to protect people with historic ties to Russia, both cultural and economic.

This is quite a performance by Putin. It’s difficult to remember the last time a head of state packed so many contradictory and demonstrably false declarations into one appearance. The fact that Putin felt the need to issue a denial at all might be a sign that the accusations from other European leaders might be stinging him a bit, but that’s outweighed by his breezy contradictions of those same denials in the same moment. He’s sending out a blizzard of BS as nothing more than sheer contempt for his opponents.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Not Over?

Bmore on March 4, 2014 at 10:41 AM

I guess we’ll know when they vote on the referendum. If it succeeds more pro-russian Ukrainian regions might follow suit?

workingclass artist on March 4, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Putin will need to keep troops in place to enforce those referendums. Kiev is not likely to give up territory without some sort of screaming and yelling.

Kaffa on March 4, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Any day now waiting for Obama to take credit for making Putin not run his tanks into the Ukraine…

…and then Putin will do it.

albill on March 4, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Puty Speechy Le Part Deux:

4h
3.3 million people moved from Ukraine into Russia in the last year, Putin claims – live video

4h
If Ukraine holds elections under current conditions of ‘terror,’ Russia will not recognize results – @Reuters

4h
Putin says Yanukovych has no political future, Russia sheltered him to save his life – @AP

4h
Putin says armed groups which seized power in Crimea were ‘local forces of self-defense,’ denies they are Russian soldiers – @Reuters

4h
Putin: Sanctions against Russia will backfire on the West – @AP

4h
President Putin denies allegations Russia is considering adding Crimea to Russia – live video

4h
Putin says Russia is prepared to host G8 conference in Sochi, but if Western leaders don’t want to come ‘they don’t need to’ – @Reuters

4h
Putin says he hopes Russia won’t have to use force in eastern Ukraine – @AP

4h
Putin: ‘It’s a humanitarian mission. We’re not setting the goal of subjugating anyone or telling them what to do’ – @maxseddon

canopfor on March 4, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Shooting at Crimean air base: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juH4SSX-zyM

davidk on March 4, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Any day now waiting for Obama to take credit for making Putin not run his tanks into the Ukraine…

…and then Putin will do it.

albill on March 4, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Heh. That would be pure schadenfreude.

davidk on March 4, 2014 at 10:54 AM

I guess we’ll know when they vote on the referendum. If it succeeds more pro-russian Ukrainian regions might follow suit?

workingclass artist on March 4, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Putin will need to keep troops in place to enforce those referendums. Kiev is not likely to give up territory without some sort of screaming and yelling.

Kaffa on March 4, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Earlier on QOTD:

Did Putin blink?:

Russian troops on military exercises on Ukraine’s borders ordered to return to their bases by President Putin, spokesman says – @BBCBreaking

davidk on March 4, 2014 at 4:35 AM

davidk on March 4, 2014 at 10:56 AM

A Putin critique post – without any Obama snark?
This will be a relatively anemic comment thread.
There’s just isn’t the same passion here for opposing the Russian president.

verbaluce on March 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Dow Jones industrial average surges 200 points as tensions ease in Ukraine – @AP

davidk on March 4, 2014 at 11:04 AM

Iran has not halted its ballistic weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the AIPAC conference on Tuesday, and will soon have the ability to strike as far as the West Coast of the United States.

“ICBMs can cross vast oceans and strike right now the eastern seaboard in the US, and very soon up to Los Angeles,” he said. “Iran’s missiles can already reach Israel. Those ICBMs they’re building were never built for us. When you see Iran building ICBMs, remember America – that Scud’s for you!”

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4495146,00.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

davidk on March 4, 2014 at 11:06 AM

…if you like your Crimea…you can keep your Crimea!

KOOLAID2 on March 4, 2014 at 11:11 AM

It’s difficult to remember the last time a head of state packed so many contradictory and demonstrably false declarations into one appearance.

Putin obviously thinks if Obama can do it, it’s good enough for Putin.

ghostwalker1 on March 4, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Mixed signals. (Note the slimes calls Crimea “the autonomous Ukrainian republic”)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The prime minister of Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian republic seized by Russian military forces, said Tuesday that most Ukrainian military units on the peninsula had surrendered and pledged allegiance to his pro-Russian government, and that local officials were working to speed up a referendum on independence.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said that regional officials were in control of the security situation, even as armed standoffs continued between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops at several military installations, including a base near the airport of Belbek near Sevastopol.

“There is no safety threat to human life in Crimea,” Mr. Aksyonov said.

It was not possible to independently verify Mr. Aksyonov’s claims, and even he did not assert that all military units were now aligned with his administration. He did indicate, however, that he believed enough forces were loyal to him to eliminate the threat of an armed insurrection in Crimea.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/world/europe/crimea-ukraine-russia.html?_r=0

davidk on March 4, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Crimea is GONE…and Putin is thinking of any excuse to go into Eastern Ukraine now…and he knows all he needs is the flimsiest excuse because there is no one to oppose him. He!!, he could easily take all of Ukraine right now, which his parliment already gave him authority to do if he wants.

easyt65 on March 4, 2014 at 12:14 PM

easyt65 on March 4, 2014 at 12:14 PM

And obama will do nothing about it, he’s scared out of his pants right now so he’s focusing on anything that he thinks will make him look good. Putin will go in and take Ukraine with barely a hitch.

onesheep on March 4, 2014 at 1:19 PM

It’s difficult to remember the last time a head of state packed so many contradictory and demonstrably false declarations into one appearance.

Did you not watch Obama’s State of the Union speech this year?

Theophile on March 5, 2014 at 12:29 AM

My eyes were spinning like slot machines at these announcements. Right now Putin has all the credibility of Tariq Aziz. :P

TMOverbeck on March 6, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Comment pages: 1 2