Putin warns of further alienation from West, urges national unity

MOSCOW — In a rare mass gathering Thursday with Russian lawmakers in the newly adopted Crimea, President Vladimir Putin said Russia could further distance itself from the hostile West, while calling for solid national unity.

Putin said Russia, if necessary, could denounce international agreements or pull out from certain international organizations, citing U.S. withdrawal from the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty, which was signed by Moscow and Washington in 2002.

“I simply don’t quite understand whether we need some special denunciation mechanisms … We will do exactly the same when we shall deem it beneficial and necessary to protect our interests,” Putin told a meeting with more than 100 parliamentarians in Crimea’s resort city of Yalta.

Alexei Pushkov, head of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma, lower house of the parliament, perceived that the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty could be among the agreements likely to be denounced.

Moscow and Washington have been trading accusations over breaches of the bilateral treaty, which bars the signatories from possessing, producing or flight-testing such cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.

Putin did not rule out the possibility of pulling Russia out of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The ECHR has poorly performed the role it was originally set for, and has simply fulfilled “some political function,” said the president.

“If this practice gets stronger, it is possible” that Russia would withdraw from its jurisdiction, he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying, adding “this issue is still not on our agenda so far.”

The remarks came as Russia retaliated against the United States and its allies with a one-year agricultural imports ban over their sanctions on Moscow.

Noting the ban was legal and substantiated, Putin said it would be beneficial for Russia’s economy and painful for the West.

Acknowledging that Russia’s foreign policy “must be peaceful,” Putin stressed that it should also be decisive and cautious enough to counter contemptuous policies against the country.

“We are not going, like some people do, to run around the world with a razor and brandish this razor,” said Putin, adding Russia will spare no efforts to facilitate an early end to the conflict in southeastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, he called on the lawmakers to strengthen national unity amid changing and complex domestic and international situations.

“A great deal depends on you … and on how convincingly we will work with our voters, with our citizens, how decisive and persistent we are in implementing the initiatives,” he said.

Solidarity did not mean shielding Russia from the outside world, nor was it intended for wars or conflicts, but for hard work and economic growth, he said.

Putin mentioned in particular the importance to rehabilitate the repressed peoples living in Crimea and to ensure real equality for three languages used on the peninsula, namely Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.

The government will allocate more than 700 billion rubles (USD 19.4 billion) to Crimea until 2020, he said.  Xinhua

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