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Tags: putin | crimea | jerusalem | us | eu

Putin Likens Crimea to Jerusalem for Russians

Thursday, 04 December 2014 12:19 PM EST

 President Vladimir Putin attacked the U.S. and Europe for backing Ukraine and said that Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed from the former Soviet republic in March, has “sacred meaning” as Russia’s “Jerusalem.”

As Ukrainian officials planned to pause shelling on Dec. 9, Putin said he isn’t surprised by the country’s separatist conflict, given what he termed “the coup and violent takeover of power” in Kiev in February. He said the U.S. and European Union, who have imposed sanctions that are hobbling Russia’s economy over its stance on Ukraine, would have penalized his country even if the conflict hadn’t broken out.

Crimea has “invaluable civilizational and even sacred meaning for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for the followers of Islam and Judaism,” Putin said in his annual address to parliament and other top officials in Moscow today. “And this is how we will always consider it.”

The U.S. and the European Union blame Putin for stoking the conflict between Ukrainian forces and eastern pro-Russian separatists that’s killed more than 4,300 people and displaced 500,000 this year. In the worst standoff between Russia and its former Cold War foes since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Putin’s government has also vowed to increase bomber missions to as far as the Gulf of Mexico, prompting NATO countries to reassess their military readiness.

Sanctions Harmful

Putin brushed off the sanctions, which have limited access to capital markets for some Russian banks and companies and blacklisted officials involved in the conflict. His government denies any involvement in Ukraine, and he said the sanctions were instead aimed at keeping Russia down.

“They are not just a knee-jerk reaction on behalf of the United States or its allies to our position regarding the events and the coup in Ukraine, or even the so-called Crimean Spring,” Putin said. “If none of that had ever happened, they would have come up with some other excuse to try to contain Russia’s growing capabilities.”

Russia is also being hit by falling oil prices that have dropped by more than 35 percent since June. Russia depends on oil and gas revenue for about half of its federal budget. The ruble has lost about a third of its value since Putin started his incursion into Crimea. It fell 2.5 percent to 54.4995 per dollar at 7:53 p.m. in Moscow today.

Hitler Comparison

Putin likened his global opponents to Adolf Hitler.

Hitler, “with his humanity-hating ideas, was going to destroy Russia and throw us back behind the Urals,” Putin said. “Everyone should remember how that ended.” The Nazi leader committed suicide in his Berlin bunker as the city was captured by the Red Army in 1945.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia is forcing its own citizens to pay “a steep economic and human price including the price of hundreds of Russian soldiers who fight and die in a country where they had and have no right to be.”

“Regrettably, Russia continues to supply new weapons and increase support for armed separatists,” Kerry said today at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe states in Basel, Switzerland. “In doing so it fails to meet its international and OSCE obligations and to live up to an agreement that it has negotiated and signed.”

Kerry, Lavrov

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed efforts to negotiate a cease-fire in Basel, and Kerry urged a return to talks about the implementation of a Sept. 5 truce signed in Minsk, Belarus, a State Department Official said in an e-mailed statement. The truce has been broken almost daily.

President Petro Poroshenko said the Ukrainian side is sticking to the Minsk agreement, and, in line with the pact, would stop firing and begin a “day of silence” starting on Dec. 9, according to a statement on his website. A rebel leader in Luhansk said the two sides had agreed verbally to a truce but no deal had yet been signed, news service RIA said.

More than 300 Russian soldiers died and about 200 were wounded in fighting around the airport in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region through Dec. 2, news service Interfax reported, citing Oleksandr Rozmaznin of the Ukrainian armed forces command center. Rozmaznin, citing an intercepted report, said there were 32,000 Russian servicemen and mercenaries fighting Ukrainian forces, including as many as 10,000 Russian troops, Interfax reported.

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and 13 were wounded in 71 separate attacks since yesterday, National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev today.

Ukraine may hold talks next week with separatist leaders. A new round of negotiations may involve representatives of the rebels, Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in televised remarks.

© Copyright 2023 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

President Vladimir Putin attacked the U.S. and Europe for backing Ukraine and said that Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed from the former Soviet republic in March, has "sacred meaning" as Russia's "Jerusalem." As Ukrainian officials planned to pause shelling on Dec. 9,...
putin, crimea, jerusalem, us, eu
Thursday, 04 December 2014 12:19 PM
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