Putin: 'I can take Kiev in two weeks if I want'

13:30 | 02.09.2014
Putin: 'I can take Kiev in two weeks if I want'

Putin: 'I can take Kiev in two weeks if I want'

Vladimir Putin has boasted that he could take the Ukrainian capital Kiev in "two weeks", according to reports of a telephone conversation between Russia's president and the outgoing European commissioner.

Putin, who has repeated his categorical denial that Russian troops are in Ukraine, despite evidence to the contrary from Ukraine's leadership, has been defiant in recent days about Moscow's right to protect its interests in the country.

The respected Italian daily La Repubblica reported that in a conversation with outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Putin remarked: "If I want, I take Kiev in two weeks."

The Russian leader was just as belligerent when cornered by the BBC's John Sweeney at a mammoth museum at Russia's Northeastern Federal University in Yankutsk. Maneuvering past the tank-sized bodyguards, Sweeney came face-to-face with Putin, repeatedly asking if he "regrets the killings in Ukraine".

Attempting to defer, Putin eventually replied in Russian. “What is the aim and sense of today’s military operation in the east? And what triggered the escalation of their activities,” the president said.

“They are triggered by the fact that Ukrainian troops are laying siege to civilian areas and are shooting directly at residential areas. “This is what many states, including in Europe, unfortunately prefer not to notice."

The president was clearly riled by the confrontation, dismissively stopping his translator in mid-sentence at one point, to reply to Sweeney directly in English.

Separately, speaking at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Monday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also denied his country had staged a military intervention, and shrugged off warnings of yet tougher sanctions from the West.

In the House of Commons today, David Cameron denounced the presence of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil as "unjustified and unacceptable" and accused Moscow of trying to force its smaller neighbour to "abandon its democratic choices at the barrel of a gun".

Cameron later told MPs it was important Russia saw British troops in nearby Nato countries. "I think it's very important that when Russia looks at countries like Estonia or Latvia or Poland they don't just see Estonian, Latvian and Polish soldiers, they see French, German, British soldiers too.

Heavy fighting is ongoing in eastern Ukraine as talks began in the Belarussian capital Minsk between the Kiev government and separatist leaders. Pro-Russia leaders, despite declaring "independence" after questionable referendums earlier this year, are believed to be receptive to staying as part of Ukraine as long as there is a substantial regional devolution of power and guarantees about the status of the Russian language in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian army was on Monday forced to abandon the airport in the city of Luhansk, because they came under fire from what a military spokesman said was a Russian tank battalion. According to a morgue doctor in Luhansk who spoke to Human Rights Watch, explosive weapons have killed more than 300 civilians in the city since May.

(The Huffingston Post)

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