Flags raised at Russian Navy's new ships Zelyony Dol and Serpukhov
Russia Will Continue to Develop Crimea's Sevastopol Naval Base - Putin
Putin's 2015 Annual Year-End Press Conference (41)
Russia is planning to continue developing its Naval base in Sevastopol, Putin said
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russia will continue to develop its Navy base located in Crimea’s Sevastopol, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.
“In regards to the purpose of Sevastopol and ways of developing it, it’s hard to say from a naval point of view that it plays a more important role than the port in Vladivostok or even in Kamchatka where our second most important nuclear submarine fleet is located. We’ve done much in order to maintain the [Sevastopol] base, we’ve developed it and will continue to develop it further,” Putin said during his annual press conference.
Russian Navy Testing Advanced Stealthy Frigate
Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia in a March 2014 referendum, with over 96 percent of voters backing the move.
The reunification drew international attention, with Kiev and a number of Western states labeling the process an annexation and accusing Russia of aggression against Ukraine.
Sevastopol, the Russian federal city within the Crimean Federal District, hosts the main naval base of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia. The base is strategically important for the country's naval fleet, in addition to being Russia's only warm water base.
Read more: http://sputniknews.com/russia/20151217/ ... z3ug4vErED
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... -live.html
Vladimir Putin admits: Russian troops 'were in Ukraine'
After two years of resolute denials, the Russian president admits that he sent soldiers into eastern Ukraine after all
By Roland Oliphant, Moscow and Rozina Sabur 17 Dec 2015
• Putin blasts Turkey's 'Islamist' government
• Turkey accuses Russia of 'ethnic cleansing' as Syria row intensifies
• President discusses corruption scandal
• Russian military personnel were in eastern Ukraine, Putin admits
• Describes under fire FIFA chief Sepp Blatter as an inspiring man
• Relations between US and Russia may be thawing, Putin suggests
• Putin refuses to discuss daughters' whereabouts
• Russia sends warning to West with show of strength in Syria
Summary: What did Putin have to say?
Vladimir Putin admitted to deploying Russian military specialists to eastern Ukraine on Thursday, dropping nearly two years of denials that Russian servicemen were involved in the conflict there, writes Roland Oliphant in Moscow.
Speaking at an annual televised press conference, Mr Putin denied that “regular forces” were involved in the conflict, but conceded that “people dealing with tasks…in the military sphere,” had been involved in the conflict.
“We never said that there weren’t people there dealing with certain tasks, including in the military sphere,” he said, when challenged by a Ukrainian journalist about two captured Russian officers currently held in Ukraine.
“But that doesn’t mean there are regular Russian forces there. Feel the difference,” he added.
There was no opportunity for a follow up question to clarify exactly how many such people are in eastern Ukraine or which “tasks in the military sphere” they were fulfilling.
Mr Putin has previously denied any military role in Ukraine whatsoever. In televised remarks in April, he said: “I will say this clearly. There are no Russian troops in Ukraine.”
At a press conference last year he insisted that any Russians involved in the war there were simply “volunteers".
Mr Putin made the admission when answering a question about Captain Yevgenny Yerofeyev and Sergeant Alexander Alexandrov, who have identified themselves as serving members of Russia’s GRU special forces and were taken prisoner in eastern Ukraine in May.
Russian officials at the time claimed the pair were former, not serving, soldiers who ended up in Ukraine as volunteers.
Mr Putin made no effort to disown the pair on Thursday, instead calling on a “calm discussion” with the Ukrainian authorities about an “equal” prisoner exchange.
Mr Putin’s comments echoed his admission earlier this year that Russian forces had served in the annexation of Crimea.
Initially Mr Putin and his top officials insisted that the uniformed men who seized control of Crimea in March 2014 were “local self defence forces.”
But during a television phone-in in April, Mr Putin U-turned, saying “of course our troops stood behind Crimea's self-defence forces".
Mr Putin was unusually conciliatory about the United States, praising an American initiative to get a security council resolution aimed at ending the war in Syria and saying Russia “is ready and wants to improve the relationship".
“The recent visit by the secretary of state showed, I think, that the American side is ready to move towards mutual resolution of those problems that can only be resolved mutually. That is already in principle a healthy position. We strongly support it,” he said.
For a man who has previously bitterly described the US as a nation hell-bent on world domination, that is remarkably mild language.
While Mr Putin remains at logger heads with Barack Obama over Ukraine, Nato expansion in Europe, and the fate of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, alarm at the rise of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has prompted a limited thaw in relations.
Most significantly, Mr Putin publicly endorsed an American plan to resolve the conflict in Syria, and made a point of crediting Mr Obama for the idea.
"We support the United States’ initiative, including on preparing a Security Council resolution on Syria, and in particular the draft that the secretary of state brought here,”
he said, referring to John Kerry’s visit to Moscow on Tuesday.
“I think after becoming acquainted with the details it will also suit the Syrian leadership,” he added.
“The sequence must be: joint work to draft a constitution, a mechanism for future elections including transparency measures that everyone will trust,” he said of the peace plan.
He reiterated Russian opposition to the idea of getting rid of Assad as a condition of peace, however.
Mr Putin reserved his bitterest barbs for Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erodgan, who he accused of presiding over a process of Islamisation that would have Turkish republic founder “Ataturk turning in his grave".
Russian and Turkish relations were plunged into crisis after Turkish jets shot down a Russian bomber aircraft over Syria last month, prompting Mr Putin to order a string of retaliatory measures including economic sanctions.
"Did someone in the Turkish leadership decide to lick the Americans in a particular place?” He mused. “I’m not sure they did it right, or even that the Americans would have wanted it.”
“Did they think we’d flee from there, or something? Russia is not that country! We increased our presence, we increased the size of our air contingent,” he said.
Intriguingly, he claimed Turkey’s shoot down incident was especially bitter because Russia had offered Turkey special assistance on issues that he did not wish to make public.
“I won’t say what - that’s not my style - but believe me, our Turkish colleagues asked for help on a number of very sensitive topics,” he said. “And we said ‘yes, we understand you, and are willing to help,” he said.
On the domestic front, economics dominated, with Mr Putin acknowledging the blow inflicted by falling oil prices, but insisting that recovery is in sight - and listing a string of statistics to prove it.
But he warned that “further adjustments” to the budget could be unavoidable unless the oil price recovers.
“At the end of 2014 we had to re-run our calculations [for the budget] because oil prices had halved from $100 to $50. But $50 was too optimistic. Now it’s what, $38?” he added.
Russia is going through its longest economic downturn since Mr Putin came to power 15 years ago, forcing the government to take a series of potentially unpopular austerity measures in order to balance the books.
By defending controversial new road charges for long distance lorry drivers and fudging a question about the especially sensitive topic of raising the pension age, Mr Putin seemed to signal that the Kremlin is bracing itself to weather the inevitable storm of public disaffection rather than back off such measures.
The only moment Mr Putin seemed unsure of himself was when he was asked about corruption allegations against Yuri Chaika, Russia’s chief prosecutor and a long-serving member of the ruling elite’s inner circle.
Stumbling over the beginning of his response, and appearing to momentarily forget himself, he launched into a garbled Soviet joke about a fur coat before concluding that “we have to react to this.”
“Everything must be looked at very closely,” he said, in an apparent promise of an investigation.
Alexey Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who levelled the accusations linking Mr Chaika’s family to systematic corporate raiding and even (indirectly) a notorious organised crime group, immediately claimed Mr Putin seemed reluctant to defend the prosecutor.
Only time will tell whether the promised investigation leads to anyone being punished, however.
Mr Putin seemed more assured when defending Sepp Blatter, saying the the controversial Fifa president should be “offered a Nobel prize” for his services to international football, rather than accused of corruption.
Accusations of graft levelled at Mr Blatter and Fifa are sensitive for the Kremlin because some people have suggested graft may have had something to do with Russia’s winning bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Mr Putin insisted on Thursday that “Russia won its bid in an honest fight".
Turning to the ban on Russian athletes competing in international track and field competitions following damning findings of “state sponsored” doping, he promised the practice would be rooted out.
When a reporter asked a fawning question about Mr Putin’s own “fine sporting shape,” he interjected “without doping”.
In keeping with an unofficial tradition, Mr Putin left one of his juiciest comments until after the press conference was over, when several journalists button-holed him as he left the hall.
"He is a very outstanding man, unquestionably talented," Mr Putin said when asked about Donald Trump, the controversial billionaire and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, who has expressed admiration for Mr Putin.
He did not, however, say whether he would hand over Edward Snowden to the United States if Mr Trump became president, as the latter has claimed.
"It's not up to us to judge his virtue, that is up to US voters, but he is an absolute leader of the presidential race," he added.
A fairly unremarkable performance from Vladimir Putin this year, with all the traditional ingredients - a string of economic statistics, a salty bard about Russia’s current bete noir (this year it’s Turkey), and a handful of signals about the diplomatic and domestic state of play - including inside the Kremlin.
The most significant single line has to be Mr Putin’s admission that there were military specialists in Ukraine.
“We never said that there weren’t people dealing with certain tasks, including in the military sphere,” he said, when challenged by a Ukrainian journalist about two captured Russian officers currently held in Ukraine. “That doesn’t mean there are regular Russian forces there.”
Actually Mr Putin has repeatedly denied any military role in Ukraine, and the fact he did not disown the prisoners named by the journalists amounts to finally dropping a pretence that has long been implausible. It won’t make much difference on the ground in east Ukraine, but it is in its way a significant moment.
Interestingly, Mr Putin was unusually conciliatory about the United States, praising an American initiative to get a Security Council resolution aimed at ending the war in Syria and saying Russian “is ready and wants to improve the relationship.”
For a man who has previously bitterly described the US as a country bent on world domination, that signals quite a thaw. He seems keen to build on work ending the war in
Instead, the barbs were reserved for Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he accused of presiding over a process of Islamisation that would have modern Turkish Republic founder “Ataturk turning in his grave".
The saltiest line? Asked if a “third country” might have been involved in the shoot down of a Russian bomber in Syria, he wondered aloud whether “someone in the Turkish leadership decided to lick the Americans in a particular place". He suggested, however, that the Americans weren't looking for such flattery.
On the domestic front, economics dominated, with Mr Putin acknowledging the blow inflicted by falling oil prices, but insisting that recovery is in sight - and listing a string of statistics to prove it. He also defended controversial new road charges, and fudged a question about raising the pension age - signalling that the Kremlin is readying to implement that some less than popular austerity measures.
Next, his slightly stumbling response to a question about Yuri Chaika, the chief prosecutor whose son has been linked to a string of corrupt businesses and indirectly to a notorious organised crime group. Mr Putin’s response amounted to “we’ll look into it,” could be taken as a a brush off, or Mr Chaika’s career is in ruins.
Alexey Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who levelled the accusations, has said Mr Putin clearly felt uncomfortable defending the prosecutor. Taken with Mr Putin’s refusal to rubbish the accusations, it could indeed mean Mr Chaika’s days in office are numbered.
Finally, of course, he called Donald Trump “talented” and welcomed the presidential contender’s proposals to improve relations with Russia. “How couldn’t we welcome that?” he asked rhetorically. An endorsement? Not quite.