The Guardian reports: Vladimir Putin has said Russian forces could conquer the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in a fortnight if he so ordered, the Kremlin has confirmed.
Moscow declined to deny that the president had spoken of taking Kiev in a phone conversation on Friday with José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European commission.
Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign policy adviser, said on Tuesday that the Barroso leak had taken Putin’s remarks out of context.
“This is incorrect, and is outside all the normal framework of diplomatic practice, if he did say it. This is simply not appropriate for a serious political figure,” he said of the Barroso leak, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.
EU leaders held a summit on Saturday to decide who should run the union for the next five years, but the session was quickly preoccupied by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and how to respond.
Barroso told the closed meeting that Putin had told him Kiev would be an easy conquest for Russia, according to the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. According to the account, Barroso asked Putin about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. Nato says there are at least 1,000 Russian forces on the wrong side of the border. The Ukrainians put the figure at 1,600.
“The problem is not this, but that if I want I’ll take Kiev in two weeks,” Putin said, according to La Repubblica. [Continue reading…]