Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he had no objections to Ukraine joining the European Union following the European Commission's historic decision to back Kyiv's bid to become a member.
"We have nothing against it. It is not a military bloc. It's the right of any country to join economic unions," Putin said on Friday when asked about the prospects of Ukraine joining the EU.
Russia has railed against Ukraine's attempts to join the NATO military alliance for years, with the issue becoming a major stand-off between Moscow and the West.
Before he ordered tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in late February, Putin had sought legal guarantees from the United States that Ukraine would not be admitted to the military alliance.
Earlier on Friday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin was closely following Ukraine's efforts to become a member of the EU, especially in the light of increased defense cooperation among the 27-member bloc.
The issue "requires our heightened attention, because we are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defense component of the EU," Peskov said in a call with reporters.
Speaking at Russia's flagship annual economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin questioned whether it was "advisable" for the EU to permit Ukraine to join, saying Kyiv would need huge economic subsidies that other EU members may not be willing to give.
The European Commission recommended on Friday that the EU designate Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership, with a third former Soviet republic, Georgia, being asked to meet certain conditions before being granted the same status.
Earlier, Putin said his country's economy will overcome sanctions that he called “reckless and insane.”
Putin began his address to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum with a lengthy denunciation of countries that he contends want to weaken Russia, including the United States.
He said the U.S. “declared victory in the Cold War and later came to think of themselves as God's own messengers on planet Earth.”
Russia came under a wide array of sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine in February, while hundreds of foreign companies suspended operations in Russia or pulled out of the country entirely.
“It didn't work. Russian enterprises and government authorities worked in a composed and professional manner,” Putin said. “We're normalizing the economic situation. We stabilized the financial markets, the baking system, the trade system.”
Putin noted that Russia's projected inflation rate has fallen marginally but that the current projection of 16.7% annually is still too high.
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