Obama: Russia must ‘move back’ troops from Crimea

Obama says his Russian counterpart Putin ‘may be entirely misreading the West,’ and Washington has no interest in circling Moscow

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President Barack Obama in an interview aired Friday said Russia must “move back” its troops back from the Ukraine border and start negotiating with the international community, Agence France-Presse reported.

Obama told CBS News that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to assemble forces on the border may “simply be an effort to intimidate Ukraine, or it may be that they’ve got additional plans.”

Although estimates of troop numbers vary vastly, Obama said that “to de-escalate the situation” Russia should “move back those troops and begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government as well as the international community.”

He also said Putin had been “willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union,” and the Russian leader should not “revert back to the kinds of practices that, you know, were so prevalent during the Cold War.”

“I think there’s a strong sense of Russian nationalism and a sense that somehow the West has taken advantage of Russia in the past and that he wants to in some fashion, you know, reverse that or make up for that,” Obama said, referring to Putin.

“What I have repeatedly said is that he may be entirely misreading the West. He’s certainly misreading American foreign policy,” the U.S. leader told CBS.

“We have no interest in circling Russia and we have no interest in Ukraine beyond letting Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives.”

In the same time, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Friday congratulated his country’s armed forces for their role in the takeover by Moscow of Crimea from Ukraine, saying they had shown the new capacities of the Russian army.

“The recent events in Crimea were a serious test. They demonstrated the new capacities of our armed forces in terms of quality and the high moral spirit of the personnel,” AFP quoted him as saying at a televised military ceremony.


First time

Putin for the first time confirmed the direct involvement of the Russian army in the seizure which was carried out by thousands of well-armed and equipped troops in unmarked battle fatigues.

He had previously described the forces who took Crimea as “local self-defense forces” although it appeared that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet which is based in Crimea was heavily involved in the takeover.

Putin at the ceremony thanked the “commanders and servicemen of the Black Sea Fleet and other units deployed in Crimea for their restraint and personal courage.”

He said the actions of Russian servicemen in Crimea were “precise and professional” and allowed “the avoidance of provocations and bloodshed and the peaceful carrying out of the referendum” on March 16 when Crimea voted to become part of Russia.

Russia to turn over some arms

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday told Putin that the Ukrainian withdrawal from Crimea is complete, the Associated Press reported Russian news agencies as saying.

Putin also approved Shoigu’s proposal to turn over arms and equipment of the units still loyal to Ukraine, the reports said. No specifics were given on quantities, types of hardware, or timing.

(AFP and Associated Press)

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