by Stephen Lendman
On April 17, Putin held his annual televised Q & A session. He did it with ordinary Russians nationwide. He did it for the 12th time. Doing so connects with them.
He responded to questions forthrightly. Most concerned Ukraine and Crimea. He covered lots of ground.
Trust lost is hard to regain, he said. It's been "undermined to a great degree, but why is this happening?
"We believe in this situation we are not at fault." Restoring trust requires Washington abandoning its "double standards."
"We are not trying to undermine the relations between Russia and Europe, and I hope that this is not a part of our European partners' plans."
More on his comments below. Separately, Russia's Foreign Ministry said NATO exceeded the worst of Cold War rhetoric.
"The North Atlantic Treaty Organization made a series of publications lately, including 'Russia's accusations - setting the record straight,' in which NATO in its usual biased manner called Russia responsible for the recent crisis (in Ukraine)."
"Moreover, NATO's recent anti-Russian political rhetoric has surpassed the propaganda during the aggression against Yugoslavia."
Moscow continues going all-out to change things. On April 17, Sergei Lavrov participated in four-party summit talks.
So did his US, EU and Ukrainian counterparts. They met in Geneva. They addressed Ukraine's crisis.
Ahead of discussions, Lavrov said "deescalation, disarmament of illegal formations, constitutional reform and elections must be prioritized.
Most important is real constitutional reform, he said. Legitimate elections can't be held without it. Putin stressed it, saying:
"If the constitution is not changed, new elections cannot be held as President Viktor Yanukovych still remains the legitimate president."
Illegitimate putschists rule. Putin referred to presidential aspirant Oleh Tsarev's brutal beating saying:
"How can elections be legitimate if candidates from the east are always being beaten, poured with some kind of ink, and are not allowed to meet with the voters."
"The presidential race is proceeding in absolutely unacceptable forms. If it continues like this, we certainly will be unable to recognize the events that will follow May 25 as legitimate."
"The beginning of the preparation of a real constitutional reform, which would take into account the interests of all Ukrainian regions without exception is a key to the crisis settlement," Lavrov added.
"It must be real, and not cosmetic," he stressed. At the same time, he knows the futility of negotiating with Washington.
Its agenda is hardline. Hegemons operate this way. Expect nothing positive following Geneva. A deal was reached, Lavrov said after talks concluded.
It's not worth the paper it's written on. US history reflects promises made. Promises broken. The pattern repeats with disturbing regularity. Don't expect this time to be different.
According to Ukraine's illegitimate putschist UN envoy Yuriy Klinenko before talks began:
Kiev "does not intend to discuss at this meeting Ukrainian internal issues, so we will not discuss matters relating to Ukraine's federalization."
Lavrov took sharp issue, saying:
"Don't believe the statements suggesting that this meeting is not going to discuss the internal Ukrainian crisis. It's a blatant lie."
"We gather to discuss exactly the Ukrainian internal crisis." Focus will stress steps Russia and other parties must take.
Ukrainians must be involved, Lavrov said. "Because the crisis originates from a deep malfunction of Ukrainian statehood, and without the beginning of a dialogue with equal participation of all political forces and all regions, it is impossible to overcome this crisis."
Putin called allegations of Russian forces in Ukraine "nonsense. There are no Russian units in eastern Ukraine."
"There are no Special Forces. There are no instructors. These are all local residents, and the best proof of this is that the people have literally removed their masks."
He hopes no military forces will be needed to protect the safety and security of Russian nationals.
"I remind you that the Russian Federation Council has given the president the right to use the armed forces in Ukraine," he said. It did so unanimously.
It did it without hostile intent. It focused solely on protecting fundamental civil and human rights.
"I hope that I won't have to use this right and that we will be able to solve all the pressing problems in Ukraine today by political and diplomatic means," Putin stressed.
At the same time, he's realistic. He knows Washington's dark side. Permanent war is official policy. So is eliminating Russia as a major military rival.
Putin addressed sending military forces against peaceful Eastern Ukrainian protesters. "Have they lost their minds," he said.
"They are deploying tanks, armored vehicles and weaponry. Against whom? Are they nuts?" Crisis conditions can only be resolved diplomatically through dialogue, he stressed.
"The coup-appointed government in Kiev needs to come to its senses before we can negotiate."
Outside party intervention is unacceptable, he stressed. "Compromise must be reached between various political forces" internally, "not between third parties."
"This is of paramount importance. This is a keynote issue. All we can do from the outside is to support it in some way and go along with it."
Kiev must respect Crimeans' rights. International law affirms self-determination inviolability.
"If we treat each other with respect, we will have to recognize each other's right of choice. People who live in Ukraine have to respect the choice of those who live in Crimea," said Putin.
They reject Kiev putschists. They acted legitimately against them. They did so to protect their sovereign rights. They acted independently.
"Nothing was prepared beforehand. Everything was done on the fly, so to speak, to accommodate the situation. But it was executed flawlessly and professionally," Putin added.
Independent monitors agreed. Everything went smoothly. Things were open, free and fair. Not a single irregularity was reported. Claims otherwise were false.
Kiev putschists usurped power lawlessly. They killed over 100 civilians and police doing so. Their rampaging continues unabated.
"Instead of realizing that something has gone wrong in the Ukrainian state and making attempts to start dialogue, they have intensified their threats to use force and have even decided to send tanks and aircraft against the civilian population," said Putin.
"It is another very serious crime on the part of the current Kiev authorities."
He said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen secretly recorded a conversation they had when he was Danish prime minister.
He leaked it to the press. "I couldn't believe my ears and eyes," said Putin. "What nonsense. How can you trust someone after an incident like that?"
He stressed the importance of "transparency, stability and partnership" in interpersonal relations.
Energy wars with Russia will harm European countries most, he said. "Can Europe stop buying Russian gas?"
"I think it's impossible. Will they make themselves bleed? That's hard to imagine," he added.
He ruled out anything on Russia's part to erect a post-Soviet iron curtain. "We are not going to close our country and our people, and our public from anyone," he stressed.
He doesn't fear NATO expansion, he said. At the same time, "we have to bear the realities in mind."
He called for assessing things pragmatically. "We will choke them all," he said. "What are you afraid of," he asked?
At the same time, Moscow strongly opposes further NATO expansion east. Encroaching near Russia's borders is unacceptable.
Putin remains open to cooperative relations. Suspending them helps neither side's interests or security.
His press secretary Dmitry Peskov he's well informed on major domestic and geopolitical issues. He reviewed many questions asked. He's mindful about public concerns.
A successful Q & A "is one that people watch, listen to, discuss, and the one that results in a range of the president's commissions," said Peskov.
Russians asked them by phone, text messages, emails and video services. Crimean and Sevastopol residents participated for the first time.
Moscow provided special toll free numbers to do it. Doing so encouraged calls. Edward Snowden participated. He spoke in English. He did so by prerecorded video.
"I'd like to ask you: does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals," he asked?
"And do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify our placing societies rather than subjects under surveillance?"
"Mass eavesdropping" like in America is "impossible," said Putin. "Russia's special services are under strict control."
"Mr Snowden, you're a former agent, I also had something to do with this, so we'll talk in a professional language."
"We have strict legal regulation of the use of special surveillance by special services, including tapping phone conversations, surveillance on the Internet and so on."
"Nevertheless, special services do use 'appropriate modern means' (to surveille) criminals and terrorists."
"Of course we do not allow ourselves to do it in a mass scale, on an uncontrolled scale. And I hope, I very much hope, we never will."
"We don't have the technological means and money the United States has, and most importantly, thank God, in our country, special services are under the control of the state and society and their activities are regulated by the law."
Putin said US/Moscow reset relations ended when Obama waged war on Libya. In 2011, he called Security Council Resolution 1973 "deficient and flawed."
"It allows everything, and is reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade. It effectively allows intervention in a sovereign state."
It's becoming a "trend," he added. "Now it's Libya's turn - under the pretext of protecting civilians.
Where is the logic and conscience? There is neither. The ongoing events in Libya confirm that Russia is right to strengthen her defense capabilities."
He warned against direct foreign intervention against Syria. "Moscow won't allow anyone to repeat the Libyan scenario," he added.
He forthrightly opposes attacking Iran. He drew a red line. He highlighted it against Ukraine. He'll defend Russia's vital issues responsibly. He's not rolling over for Washington.
Separately, Kiev putschists banned Russian males aged 16 - 60 from entering Ukraine. Crimeans and Sevastopol residents are included. Police states operate this way.
Ukrainian State Border Guard Service authorities said "these temporary measures apply primarily to healthy males who could somehow influence the situation in Eastern Ukraine."
Kiev outrageously holds Russia responsible for spontaneous grassroots resistance. Moscow isn't involved.
Ordinary people want their rights respected. They want local autonomy. They reject putschist rule. They're Ukraine's best and bravest. They deserve worldwide support.
Note: A separate article will discuss four-party so-called Geneva agreement on deescalating Ukrainian crisis conditions.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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