On June 30th, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a “Direct Line”, answering journalist questions.
It lasted 3 hours and 42 minutes.
The head of state answered 68 questions. The main topics of conversation were vaccinations, price increases, and social benefits, but also mentioned NATO, the UK’s HMS Defender and more.
Regarding NATO and the UK, Putin said that Russia could have sunk the HMS Defender, no questions asked, because it illegally entered its territorial waters without starting World War Three and accused Washington of a role in the “provocation”.
Putin, speaking during his annual question and answer session with voters, signalled his anger over what he called “a provocation” designed to reveal how Russian forces in Crimea reacted to such intrusions.
When asked if the world had stood on the precipice of World War Three during the standoff, Putin said: “Of course not.”
“Even if we had sunk the ship it is hard to imagine that the world would have been on the verge of World War Three because those doing it (the provocation) know that they could not emerge as victors from such a war,” he added.
“This is a very important thing. – Vladimir Putin stressed. – I do not think that we would be happy about the development of the event you are talking about, but at least we know what we are fighting for: we are on our territory, we are fighting for ourselves, for our future.”
Putin accused the United States and Britain of planning the episode together, saying a U.S. spy plane had taken off from Greece earlier on the same day to watch how Russia would respond to the British warship.
“It was obvious that the destroyer entered (the waters near Crimea) pursuing, first of all, military goals, trying to use the spy plane to see how our forces would stop such provocations, to see what is activated and where, how things work and where everything is located.”
“Because the British warship entered our territory in the afternoon, and early in the morning, at 7:30 am, an American spy plane took off from one of the NATO military airfields in Greece – from Crete, in my opinion these things are related,” he said.
Putin said he saw a political element to the incident, which took place shortly after he had met U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva.
“The meeting in Geneva had just happened, so why was this provocation needed, what was its goal? To underscore that those people (the Americans and British) do not respect Crimeans’ choice to join the Russian Federation,” he said.
The Russian leader accused London and Washington of a lack of gratitude, saying he had earlier this year given the order for Russian forces to pull back from near Ukraine’s borders after their build-up had generated concern in the West.
“We did this,” said Putin. “But instead of reacting positively to this and saying ‘OK, we’ve understood your response to our grumbling’ – instead of that, what did they do? They barged across our borders.”
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