(CNSNews.com) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a fresh warning that Russia could intervene militarily in Ukraine, where he said Russian “compatriots” were under threat after a ceasefire between the government and pro-Moscow separatists lapsed.
“I would like to make it clear to all: this country will continue to actively defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire range of available means – from political and economic to operations under international humanitarian law and the right of self-defense,” Putin said in an address to Russian ambassadors Tuesday.
According to a translation of his remarks, made available by the Kremlin, Putin attributed the conflict in Ukraine to “negative tendencies in international affairs that had been building up for years. We have long been warning about this, and unfortunately, our predictions came true.”
Those tendencies included NATO’s post-Cold War eastward expansion, double standards on the part of the West, and what he called “the attempts by certain countries to maintain their domination in the military sphere, in politics, finance, the economy and in ideology.”
“In the past 20 years, our partners have been trying to convince Russia of their good intentions, their readiness to jointly develop strategic cooperation,” he said. “However, at the same time they kept expanding NATO, extending the area under their military and political control ever closer to our borders.”
“And when we rightfully asked: ‘Don’t you find it possible and necessary to discuss this with us?’ they said, ‘No, this is none of your business.’”
Putin again sought to justify Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, following a referendum there in March not recognized by most of the international community.
If Russia had left the people of Crimea – “the land of Russian military glory” – at the mercy of Ukrainian “nationalist and radical militants” and permitted eventual NATO domination of the peninsula and a change in the balance of forces in the Black Sea, he said, that would have amounted to “giving up practically everything that Russia had fought for since the times of Peter the Great.”
Addressing the current situation in Ukraine, Putin criticized President Petro Poroshenko for allowing a 10-day ceasefire to lapse, thus paving the way for a resumption of his campaign to crush the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in the southeast.
“Unfortunately President Poroshenko is now responsible for everything that’s going on in Ukraine, not only political responsibility but also military responsibility for the actions of his law-enforcement and armed forces.”
Pointing to other crises around the world, including Iraq and Syria, Putin said it was clear that “a unilateral system of international politics” had failed.
He expressed the hope that pragmatism would yet prevail – that “the West will get rid of ambitions, pursuits to establish a ‘world barracks’ – to arrange all according to ranks, to impose uniform rules of behavior and life of society.”
Meanwhile as fighting resumed in southeastern Ukraine Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation that Poroshenko’s decision not the extend the ceasefire had ushered in “a new cycle of bloodshed with consequences unpredictable for the Ukrainian state.”
The foreign ministry in Moscow said Lavrov had urged the U.S. to “employ its resources to persuade the Ukrainian authorities that their course is destructive.”
But at the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf voiced support for Poroshenko’s handling of the crisis.
“The Ukrainian forces have a responsibility to defend their territory and their people. And what they’re seeing is aggression by Russian-backed separatists that they have an obligation to respond to,” she said.
Harf said the U.S. continues to talk to its European partners “every day” about the situation and the question of imposing tougher sanctions on Moscow over its support for the separatists in Ukraine.
“I don’t have anything to announce, but we are looking very closely at what we might do next.”