Sunday, August 31, 2014
Putin warns enemies of Russia: 'It's best not to mess with us'
Speaking at a youth summer camp, Russian President Vladimir Putin also bragged about the country's nuclear capabilities. Putin went on to compare the Ukraine’s drive to regain control of its eastern cities to the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War II.
BY Rich Schapiro
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Friday, August 29, 2014, 8:12 AM
Updated: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 12:04 AM
Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen here at an earlier event, spoke of Russia being 'one the leading nuclear powers' during a speech at a youth summer camp.
Russian strongman Vladimir Putin delivered a provocative warning to his foes Friday: Don’t mess with us.
“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia,” a defiant Putin said in a fiery speech at a youth summer camp — of all places.
“I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers,” he told the children, gathered on the banks of Lake Seliger near Moscow.
The oft-bare-chested leader had some more chest-beating to do as the students sat in stunned silence.
“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts,” Putin said. “We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.
“Russia’s partners,” he added, “should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”
It wasn’t Putin’s only eyebrow-raising remark.
He threatened to expand Russia’s military presence into the disputed and resource-rich Arctic region — a slap in the face to Canada.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
Putin (center) attends the Seliger 2014 National Youth Forum at the Seliger Lake, northern Russia, on Friday.
And the Russian leader, dressed casually in a gray sweater and light blue jeans, went on to compare Ukraine’s drive to regain control of its eastern cities to the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War II in which 670,000 civilians died — a highly emotional touchstone for Russians.
The neighboring countries have been fighting since the Russians seized control of Crimea in March.
JR/New York Daily News
“Small villages and large cities (are) surrounded by the Ukrainian army, which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure,” Putin said, according to Reuters.
“It sadly reminds me of the events of the Second World War, when German fascist ... occupiers surrounded our cities.”
Putin’s summer camp speech came a day after Russian troops marched into Ukraine in a new display of aggression.
Up to 5,000 Russian soldiers are believed to have entered eastern Ukraine — a dramatic escalation that has drawn swift condemnation from the West.
The simmering conflict has already claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people — and led to stiff economic sanctions against Russia.
President Obama and other Western leaders have condemned Russia.
Among the other developments Friday:
In its strongest plea for Western military help yet, Ukraine called for full membership in NATO.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen offered his support for Kiev.
“Despite Moscow’s hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and southeastern Ukraine,” Rasmussen said. “This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilize Ukraine as a sovereign nation.”
Putin, before appearing at the summer camp, called on pro-Russian separatists to free the Ukrainian soldiers who have been surrounded by rebels in the eastern swath of the country.
But Putin went on to praise the rebels for “undermining Kiev’s military operation, which threatened lives of the residents of Donbass and has already led to a colossal death toll among civilians.”
The rebels have said they would allow the Kiev forces to retreat only if the government forces surrender their weapons.
The U.S., along with its European allies, sharply condemned Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that Russian forces had entered his country and the military conflict was worsening after Russian-backed separatists swept into a key town in the east.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed the Kremlin’s denials over whether its forces are operating inside Ukraine.
“We have regularly marshaled evidence to indicate what exactly is happening, despite the protestations of the Russian government that for some reason would have us all believe otherwise,” he said.
“The fact is, those denials are completely without any credibility, and we’ve been pretty candid about that.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius lashed out at Putin, telling a French TV station that the European Union might hit Russia with more sanctions.
Pro-Russian separatists guard their position at Savur-Mohyla.
“When one country sends military forces into another country without the agreement and against the will of another country, that is called an intervention and is clearly unacceptable,” he said.
And German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he feared the crisis is spiraling.
“The border violations we are seeing — yesterday and even more so the day before yesterday — make us fear that the situation is increasingly getting out of control,” Steinmeier added.
With News Wire Services