Russia needs to keep actively guarding its sovereignty to avoid becoming like a chained bear whose captors “will pull out his teeth and claws,” President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.
Responding to a question at his annual news conference about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin drew an analogy with what would happen if “our most recognizable symbol … the bear who guards his Taiga (forest)” stopped chasing pigs and sat still “maybe eating berries and honey.”
The President pondered whether the bear would then be left alone before answering: “They won’t leave him alone. They are always trying to put him on a chain. They will always try to put him on a chain and as soon as he is put on this chain, they will pull out his teeth and claws. In today’s terms we are speaking about our nuclear deterrence. As soon as, God forbid, this is done, the bear isn’t needed anymore.”
Once the bear had lost his teeth it might then be stuffed, he concluded.
Putin told reporters gathered in Moscow that Russia was ready to mediate in the Ukraine crisis, and he denied that Russians killed in Ukraine were members of his country’s military.
Western powers accuse Russia of sending troops and equipment to help separatists in eastern Ukraine in their fight against Ukrainian government forces.
In April, violence broke out in two Ukrainian regions that border Russia — Donetsk and Luhansk — as separatist leaders declared independence from the government in Kiev. Moscow has voiced moral support for the rebels and sent aid convoys into the region, but it has repeatedly denied military involvement.
In his end-of-year news conference,Putin said there had been “a state coup and a military coup” in Ukraine with which parts of that country had not agreed.
He repeated the long-standing Russian line that any Russians killed in Ukraine were volunteers.
Putin said he hoped the situation would still be solved through dialogue rather than military means or economic blockades that were “harmful to the state of Ukraine, the people of Ukraine.” “The Ukraine crisis must be solved, and the quicker the better,” he said.