Putin accuses Ukraine army of being 'NATO foreign legion'
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects laboratory projects as he visits National Mineral Resources University (University of Mines) in St. Petersburg, January 26, 2015. REUTERS PhotoPresident Vladimir Putin sharply ramped up his anti-Western rhetoric on Jan. 26, accusing the Ukrainian army of being "NATO's foreign legion" whose main purpose was to contain Russia.
Shortly after his spokesman warned the West against "blackmailing" Moscow with the threat of new sanctions over an upsurge in Ukraine violence, Putin accused Kyivof being unwilling to seek a peaceful settlement to a war that has claimed more than 5,000 lives.
"Who is really fighting there?" Putin said in televised remarks during a visit to Saint Petersburg.
"These are partly official units of the armed forces, but to a greater extent these are so-called 'voluntary nationalist battalions'," he said.
"In essence, this is not an army, this is a foreign legion -- in this particular case NATO's foreign legion, which of course does not pursue the objective of serving Ukraine's national interests. There are completely different goals there," he said, saying they aimed to achieve "Russia's containment".
"Unfortunately, official Kyivauthorities are refusing to take the path of a peaceful settlement," he added.
The Kremlin strongman also said that "many" Ukrainian men of draft age did not want to take up arms and sought to leave for Russia instead.
"They are seeking to move here, wait this out for some time," Putin said. "And they are doing the right thing because they are simply being used there as cannon fodder."
US President Barack Obama at the weekend threatened to pile on the pressure against Russia over the surge in fighting in Ukraine, saying Putin appeared "hell-bent on engaging in military conflicts".
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to reporters earlier Monday, warned the West against what he called "economic blackmail."
"This is an absolutely destructive, unjustified and ultimately short-sighted policy."
Washington and Brussels have already slapped several rounds of sanctions against Russia in an effort to force Moscow to drop its support for eastern Ukrainian separatists.
Kyivand the West have accused Moscow of sending regular troops to Ukraine to prop up the insurgency. Russia has denied the claim despite evidence to the contrary.