Putin: U.S. and Britain both behind Black Sea 'provocation'

The U.S. Department of Defense had not made an immediate comment on Wednesday on Putin’s claim that one of his planes was on the British ship last week.

When asked if events could have sparked World War III, Putin replied that the West would not risk a large-scale conflict.

“Even if we were to sink this ship, it would not bring the world to the brink of World War III because those who do know that they cannot emerge victorious from this war, and that is very important,” said Putin during his annual live call-on-show when Russians ask him questions.

Russian officials have warned the military could fire to hit if a western warship re-enters the waters. Since annexing Crimea, Russia has cursed NATO warships visiting the area as destabilizing.

Britain has insisted that the Defender take a routine trip via an internationally recognized itinerary and stay in Ukrainian waters. Britain, like most countries in the world, recognizes Crimea as part of Ukraine despite Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.

Putin claimed the US plane’s apparent mission was to monitor the Russian military’s response to the British destroyer.

“It was clearly a provocation, a complex provocation involving not only the British but also the Americans,” he said, adding that Moscow was aware of US intentions and had acted accordingly to seek disclosure of sensitive information to avoid.

The Russian leader complained that the move followed his summit meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva earlier this month. “Why should you make such provocations?” he said.

Putin insisted that Russia would firmly defend its territory.

“We fight for ourselves and our future on our own territory,” he said. “It is not we who have traveled thousands of kilometers (miles) to get to them, but they have reached our limits and violated our territorial waters.”

Putin stressed that Moscow was concerned that NATO troops were coming to Ukraine for training and reiterated that a permanent Western military presence on Ukrainian territory would challenge Russia’s vital interests and would be a red line.

He also reiterated, as he often does, that there is a close kinship between the Russian and Ukrainian people, but accused the Ukrainian leadership of hostility towards Russia. Putin expressed doubts about the value of meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, calling him a Western pawn.

“Why meet Zelensky when he has placed his country under full foreign control and important questions for Ukraine are decided not in Kiev, but in Washington and, to a certain extent, in Paris and Berlin?” Asked Putin.

Earlier this year, Russia reinforced its armed forces near Ukraine and warned Kiev that it could intervene if it tries to retake troops in the east that have been controlled by Russia since the conflict erupted in 2014 the Ukrainian authorities said most of them stayed near the border.

The Russian President spent most of the four-hour call-in marathon show talking about domestic issues – as is typical of the rigorously choreographed annual rite that helps Putin polish the image of a strong leader in charge cares about people’s needs. It did not include questions about Russia’s ailing opposition and Putin’s most prominent political opponent, Alexei Navalny, who is in prison.

He expressed hope the country could avoid a nationwide lockdown in the midst of a flood of new infections. Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit a new daily record on Wednesday, with authorities reporting 669, but Putin argued that decisions by local authorities in a number of regions that made vaccination mandatory for some workers should help fuel the new wave contain.

Russia has been registering over 20,000 new coronavirus cases and around 600 deaths every day since last Thursday.

Russian officials have attributed the surge, which began in early June, to Russians’ laxity in taking necessary precautions, growing prevalence of infectious variants, and low vaccine intake, which experts attribute to widespread vaccine delay and limited production capacity. Although Russia was among the first to announce and use a coronavirus vaccine, just over 15% of the population has received at least one vaccination.

Amid that hesitation, Putin announced that he had chosen the domestically developed Sputnik V for his vaccination. Putin received his first coronavirus vaccination from the public in late March and remained silent about which of three vaccines developed in Russia was available at the time of his election.

Amid the surge, about 20 Russian regions – from Moscow and St. Petersburg to the remote Far Eastern Sakhalin region – have mandated vaccinations for employees in certain sectors this month.

On other issues, Putin said the Russian authorities have no intention of banning Western social media platforms, but stressed that the government only wants them to abide by Russian laws, promptly remove inappropriate content, and leave offices in Open Russia.

Earlier this year, social media officials fined heavily for failing to remove banned content such as child pornography, drug information and calls for protests in order to put pressure on them to comply.

“We tell them, ‘They are distributing child pornography or instructions on (how to) commit suicide or how to make Molotov cocktails. … They have to put it down and they just don’t listen, don’t want to listen to what we tell them, ”Putin said. “But this is wrong.”

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