Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the 2014 popular uprising that saw former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich forced from office was the result of a “coup” orchestrated by the United States and supported by Washington’s European allies and appealed for greater cooperation on the continent.
Writing an op-ed in German newspaper Die Zeit to mark the 80th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, Putin on Tuesday described the toppling of Yanukovich as an “anti-constitutional armed coup”.
Moscow has long accused the US of fomenting turmoil in Ukraine, where tensions with neighbouring Russia have grown since Yanukovich, a pro-Kremlin leader, was removed.
After his February 2014 exit, Russia annexed the Black Sea region of Crimea and gave its backing to separatist fighters as an armed conflict erupted in Ukraine’s east.
Post-Cold War dynamics, which left countries faced with an “artificial choice” between siding with the West or Russia, had shaped the “Ukrainian tragedy”, Putin wrote.
“Why did the United States organise a coup, and why did the countries of Europe weakly support it, provoking a split in Ukraine itself and the withdrawal of Crimea?” he said.
“Now the entire system of European security has seriously degraded. Tensions are growing, and the risks of a new arms race are becoming real.”
Putin’s comments follow his highly-anticipated Geneva summit with US counterpart Joe Biden last week, during which the pair committed to try and lay the groundwork for future arms control agreements and return their respective ambassadors to their posts.
Before the talks, both sides had said big breakthroughs were unlikely with relations between Russia and the West at post-Cold War lows.
Putin eyes ‘comprehensive partnership with Europe’
The Russian leader was quick to praise Biden after the meeting, commending the US president’s professionalism.
But the Kremlin cautioned there were still significant points of disagreement between Moscow and Washington, notably over Ukraine and the role played by NATO – the transatlantic security alliance that Biden has strongly recommitted the US to – in European affairs.
In his op-ed, Putin said Russia and European powers were “missing out on the enormous opportunities that cooperation gives us” due to their icy relations.
“It [cooperation] is so important now, when we are all faced with common challenges – the pandemic and its dire socio-economic consequences,” he wrote in the piece, which was also published on the Kremlin website.
“The entire post-war history of Greater Europe confirms that the prosperity and security of our common continent is possible only through the joint efforts of all countries, including Russia,” Putin added, citing his nation’s “inseparable cultural and historical connection with Europe.”
“I repeat again: Russia stands for the restoration of a comprehensive partnership with Europe.”
The Russian leader said Moscow and other European capitals could work together on a number of issues of mutual interest, including security, energy, technology and the environment.