Russian president Vladimir Putin gave a tense interview to Austria’s ORF television channel which at times got so heated, he spoke in German to ask host Armin Wolf to let him finish his answers.
The interview was held ahead of Putin’s Tuesday meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache during a trip to Vienna, the first since Putin’s March inauguration to his second consecutive term (and fourth term in total).
After several interruptions by Wolf, Putin asked the host to “be patient,” before switching to Wolf’s mother tongue of German to ask him to put a cork in it. “Seien Sie so nett, lassen Sie mich etwas sagen (Please be so kind as to let me say something),” said Putin.
When the topic of troll farms came up, Putin said that Moscow “has nothing to do” with them, adding that claims by Western media that a single Russian businessman, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was able to influence the US election.
Prigozhin and Putin are associates, however Putin said he has no knowledge of his online activities. The Russian president then brought up George Soros as an example of the double standards being applied to those accused of meddling in foreign affairs.
“There are rumors circulating now that Mr. Soros is planning to make the Euro highly volatile,” Putin said quoted by RT. “Experts are already discussing this. Ask the [US] State Department why he is doing this. The State Department will say that it has nothing to do with them – rather it is Mr. Soros’ private affair. With us, it is Mr. Prigozhin’s private affair. This is my answer. Are you satisfied with it?”
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Putin said that Russia has been blocked from participating in the ongoing international investigation into the 2014 downing of flight MH17, which Russia has been recently blamed for. Russian experts “have been denied access to the investigation,” said Putin, while Russia’s arguments are “not taken into consideration” because nobody “is interested in hearing us out.”
Ukraine, meanwhile, has been given access to the probe.
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On North Korea, Putin says that the prospect of a full-scale military conflict with Pyonyang would be “dreadful,” considering that the two nations are neighbors – and some North Korean nuclear test sites are located near the Russian border.
Although Russia “pins great hopes on the personal meeting between [US] President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” the path to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is a “two-way road,” Putin explained. “If the North Korean leader is backing up his intentions with practical actions, for example, giving up new tests of ballistic missiles, new nuclear tests, the other side should reciprocate in a tangible manner,” he said, calling regular US military drills in the area “counterproductive.” –RT
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During perhaps the most heated moment in the interview, Putin was asked under what conditions Russia would hand Crimea back to Ukraine, to which the Russian president firmy stated: “There are no such conditions and there can never be.”
Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to rejoin Russia in a hotly contested 2014 vote that the West considers illegitimate and rigged. Putin stressed that the annexation happened after an “unconstitutional armed coup” in Kiev, and it was the Crimeans who decided their own fate.
“Crimea gained independence through the free will of the Crimeans, expressed in an open referendum, not as a result of an invasion by Russian forces.” -Vladimir Putin
Following the annexation, Putin said “the first thing we did was increase our contingent to guard our Armed Forces, our military facilities, because we immediately saw that they were being threatened,” adding that the mostly Russian population in Crimea “sensed danger, when trains started bringing aggressive nationalists there, when buses and personal vehicles were blocked, people naturally wanted to protect themselves.”
“The first thing that occurred was to restore the rights that Ukraine itself had issued by granting Crimea autonomy.”
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Once the conversation settled down, Putin was asked about his famous bare-chested photos from various vacations and outdoor activities – to which the Russian president replied: “You said ‘half-naked’ not ‘naked,’ thank God,” Putin joked. “When I am on vacation I see no need to hide behind the bushes, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
Of course, where would we be without photoshop?