National pride ‘needed for Russia’s survival’

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has defended the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy, saying the actions are necessary for his country’s survival.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March and was later accused of supplying pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with ammunition and manpower.

Mr Putin said in his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin Palace yesterday that national pride and sovereignty are “a necessary condition for survival” of Russia.

“If for many European countries, sovereignty and national pride are forgotten concepts and a luxury, then for the Russian Federation a true sovereignty is an absolutely necessary condition of its existence,” he told a full room of Cabinet ministers, lawmakers and community leaders.

“I want to stress: either we will be sovereign or we will dissolve in the world. And, of course, other nations must understand this as well.”

More than 4,300 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine in what the West and the Ukrainian government says is a conflict fuelled by Russian money.

Mr Putin repeated his displeasure over the toppling of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych but did not offer any insight into what Russia’s next actions there could be.

Although Russia is boosting its national defence budget, Mr Putin said it was not going to get involved in an expensive arms race. He said “unusual solutions” are at the nation’s disposal. “No one will succeed in defeating Russia militarily,” he said.

Mr Putin defended the annexation of Crimea, describing it as Russia’s spiritual ground, “our Temple Mount”.

Moscow-based analyst Maria Lipman said that despite bellicose statements toward the West Mr Putin “also spoke about how we are by no means going to isolate ourselves”.