Putin: U.S. and Britain both behind Black Sea 'provocation'

The U.S. Defense Department did not immediately comment on Wednesday Putin's claim that an American aircraft was aboard the British ship last week. Putin replied that it was unlikely that these events would have led to World War III. Even if that ship was torn up, it would not bring the world to the brink or World War III. Because those who fight it know they won't emerge as winners. Russian officials warned that the military could strike if a Western warship is seen entering the waters. Russia has been critical of NATO warships visiting the region since it annexed Crimea. The United Kingdom has maintained that the Defender was on a routine trip through an internationally recognized travel lane, and that it was not in Ukrainian waters. The U.K. recognizes Crimea, as does most countries around the globe, as part of Ukraine, despite Russia's annexe. Putin claimed that the U.S. planes' apparent mission was to observe the Russian military's response to the British destroyer. He stated that it was clear that the provocation was complex and involved not only the British, but also the Americans. He added that Moscow was aware U.S. intentions, and responded accordingly to prevent sensitive data being revealed. The Russian leader regretted that this move was closely related to his meeting with Joe Biden, the U.S. president, in Geneva earlier in the month. He asked why they would make such provocations. Putin insists that Russia will defend its territory. He said that we are fighting for our territory and our future. We didn't travel thousands of miles to get to them. It was them who came to our borders and violated the territorial waters. Putin stressed that Moscow is concerned by NATO troops coming into Ukraine to train, and he reiterated that Russia would be harmed if a permanent Western military presence was established on Ukrainian territory. He reiterated as he does often, that there is close kinship between Russian and Ukrainian peoples but accused the Ukrainian leadership being hostile to Russia. Putin expressed doubts about the value and description of Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a Western pawn, while referring to him as an enemy. Putin asked why Zelenskyy would meet him if he had placed his country under total foreign control and the key issues for Ukraine are not decided in Kyiv, but in Washington and to a certain degree, Paris and Berlin. Russia increased its presence in Ukraine earlier this year and warned Kyiv it could intervene in their attempts to retake the eastern areas held by Russia-backed separatists. The conflict in Ukraine erupted in 2014. Some of the troops were later withdrawn by Moscow, but most of the remaining troops remained near the border. As is the norm for the meticulously choreographed annual ritual that helps Putin project his image as a strong leader who cares for people's needs, the Russian president spoke for most of the four-hour marathon call in show. The show didn't include any questions about Russia’s beleaguered opposition or the most prominent of Putin’s political foes Alexei Navalny who is currently in prison. He expressed hope that Russia could avoid a national lockdown due to a sudden surge in new infections. Moscow's coronavirus deaths reached 669 on Wednesday. However, Putin said that the new wave should be contained by the local authorities who had made mandatory vaccination for some workers in certain regions. Since last Thursday, Russia has been reporting over 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths and 600 new cases every day. Russian officials blame the sudden surge in vaccine use, which began in June, on the lax attitude of Russians to taking the necessary precautions. Experts also attribute the low vaccine uptake to a lack of vaccine availability and increased prevalence of infectious variants. Only 15% of the population received at least one shot, despite Russia being among the first to deploy the coronavirus vaccine. Putin made it clear that he had chosen the Sputnik V vaccine, which was domestically produced. Putin received his coronavirus vaccine in March. He has kept the details private and has not revealed which of the three available in Russia. Among the surge in vaccinations, around 20 Russian regions, from Moscow and St. Petersburg all the way to Sakhalin in the far-eastern region have made it mandatory for certain sections of employees to get immunizations this month. Putin stated that Russian authorities do not intend to ban Western social media platforms, but stressed that they only want them to comply with Russian laws, remove objectionable content promptly, and open Russian offices. In an attempt to force them to comply with their demands, officials imposed heavy fines on social media platforms earlier this year for allegedly failing to remove banned content, including child pornography and information about drugs. We tell them: You are spreading child pornography or instructions on how to commit suicide or make Molotov cocktails. Putin stated that they must take it down because they don't listen or want to hear what we have to say. This is wrong.

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