The US used Russia to prevent Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich from using his military against rioters in Kiev, and then ‘cheated’ Moscow by supporting an armed coup, President Vladimir Putin said.
The accusation refers to events that happened in February 2014, when Ukraine was gripped by violent anti-government protests. Yanukovich and three leaders of the opposition forces signed a power-sharing deal, which effectively amounted to a capitulation of the president.
The deal was enforced by three European nations: Germany, France and Poland. The accord lasted only a few days, however, as protestors – led by far-right nationalists and nazi supporters – violated its terms and advanced unopposed by demoralized security forces. This forced Yanukovich to flee for his life.
“Here is something not publicly known,” Putin revealed in an interview. “At this very moment, our American partners called us and asked to do everything – and that’s almost a quote – to ensure that Yanukovich didn’t use the army, so that the opposition could clear the squares and governmental buildings on its own terms and go on towards the implementation of the agreement.”
The Russian president said Moscow agreed to this request, only to see the situation escalate the next day into a full-fledged armed coup. “They could have at least called us, do something, say a word! They could have said, ‘It was a case of agents stepping out of line, but we will fix it and turn everything into the bounds of the law,'”he said.
“Not a word! On the contrary, there was full support of those who committed this coup,” Putin recalled. “This is what they did with their own hands. How can they not support the current leadership now? They put themselves into a corner.”
After he was asked whether this was the first time Moscow had been cheated by Washington, Putin said this instance was “the first when the cheating was done so rudely and insolently.” It was the first time that the US had broken a promise this quickly, and would not even bother to explain their actions through proper channels, the president added.
“They should have understood that all this was happening near our borders. There are many people who identify themselves as Russians or consider themselves closely connected with Russia,” Putin said. “[Ukraine] is a country with which we have centuries-old special relations. We had an integrated production, energy and transport system. How can one not consider all those things?”
After the armed coup, the leadership of Ukraine chose to sever as many ties with Russia as it could, even though it hurt their own country. The painful break-up was justified by Kiev’s ambition to become part of NATO and the European Union – two goals that don’t seem much closer, four years after the ousting of Yanukovich. It did, however, cause significant damage to Ukraine’s economy, forcing millions of Ukrainians to seek low-paid jobs in countries like Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
“If they did it a little different, Ukraine would have benefited much more. Our co-operation links would not have been broken. Entire industries in Ukraine would have still existed,” Putin said. “All this destruction was done for what? For a ‘civilizational choice?’ Was that a choice of poverty or an opportunity to work illegally in European countries under the guise of a tourist visa?”
The remarks feature in a 90-minute documentary by journalist Vladimir Solovyov called ‘World Order 2018,’ which is based on interviews with Putin and a number of foreign dignitaries. The film is intended to show how the Russian leadership perceives the country’s place in the world today.