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Putin has taken Ukraine on the road to Syria

President Vladimir Putin has once again denied annexing the Crimea with military force and sending Russian armed fighters into Eastern Ukraine. He said this in an interview with French journalists on June 3 when invited by President Hollande to attend the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy. In the interview Putin told his interviewers, “a policy of expansionism and conquest has no future in the modern world”.

So how did Putin deny the occupation of Crimea and the sending of weapons and fighters to Eastern Ukraine?

  • Mr President, Russian troops annexed Crimea recently. Will you ever give it back?

  • It’s a delusion that Russian troops annexed Crimea. Russian troops did nothing of the kind.

When asked about Russian fighters in Eastern Ukraine, he unashamedly replied: “There are no armed forces, no Russian ‘instructors’ and there never were any.”

He said Russia had never intended to annex Ukraine, and would never do so.

Now as in the recent past, Putin has lied about his military intervention in Ukraine. At another press conference back on March 4, 2014, Putin said that the troops who had occupied Crimea were not Russian, but local militias.

  • : 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?

  • : 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.

  • : But were they Russian soldiers or not?

  • : Those were local self-defence units.

Putin applies a similar lie to Eastern Ukraine. He says the conflict is between local self-defence units and the what he describes as the “Kyiv Junta.” The facts on the ground show that in the forefront of the separatists are battalions of mercenaries composed of Russian Cossacks from the Tver, Kuban and Don regions. There are also experienced killers from North Caucasus, including renegade Chechens, Ingush and Ossetians. In addition platoons of Orthodox religious fanatics and ultra-Russian nationalists are piling into Ukraine with the encouragement of the Russian government. Finally, there are Russian government special operatives like “the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Donetsk People’s Republic” aka Strelkov and its prime minister Alexander Borodai. None of these Russian citizens would be in Ukraine if it weren’t for the Russian state. The local separatists in Ukraine, including Crimea, would have had to fight for political power with votes and not with guns. In the past, they found it impossible to take power through the ballot box.

Thanks to Putin’s military intervention and fixed referendums, Donbas is on the road to disaster. In the last month, the seven million people of the region have suffered enormously: government forces reported as many as 500 pro-Russian fighters killed; 70,000 Donbas residents have become refugees; half of the 120,000 population of Slovyansk occupied by Russian special forces has fled the city; 15,000 have left the regional capital Donetsk; and the economy is on the verge of shut-down. Putin whose policies have caused similar suffering in Chechnya and Syria, blames others and takes no responsibility for the deaths and destruction.

Asked by the French journalists why he supports Bashar al-Assad, Putin replied that he didn’t want Syria to fall apart. Unlike the rest of the world, Putin has not noticed that Syria has already fallen apart. More than a million of its citizens have become refugees, hundreds of thousands have been killed, and the infrastructure of many of its cities has been bombed into smithereens. But Putin, under whose presidency Russian forces killed over 100,000 Chechens, doesn’t recognize that supplying arms and giving political support to Assad has contributed to making Syria a failed state. In the same way, Putin is making the Donbas another Syria by flooding it with fighters and weapons.

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