The current issue of 'Time' magazine has a rather sinister photograph of Vladimir Putin on the front cover - he has been chosen as their Person of the Year.
Below is a portion of a lengthy interview that their journalists conducted with the Russian leader. He is talking of Ukraine :
We do understand the difficulties of our partners. For 15 years, we were selling them energy resources way below the market prices subsidized to the tune of $3 billion to $5 billion a year for Ukraine. This cannot last forever. The Europeans are always criticizing us. They want us to introduce international pricing standards. Otherwise, they say, our enterprises would enjoy an unfair advantage over European enterprises. So within the country we should sell at world prices while to our neighbors we should sell below the world prices? This is discrimination.
Let's be frank and speak directly and call a spade a spade. What I'm about to say is not aggressive in any way, but I urge you to be frank. The United States somehow decided that part of the political elite in Ukraine is pro-American and part is pro-Russian, and they decided to support the ones they consider pro-American, the so-called orange coalition. Well, O.K., you decided to support them. Do as you please, although we don't believe it's right. Of course, they have people with different outlooks there and with different political tastes, but as I've already mentioned, if a politician wants to be popular, he or she must protect the national interests first of all, be Ukrainian nationalists in the good sense of this word. And they are. They are not pro-Russians. They are not pro-Europeans. They are not pro-Americans. They are all pro-Ukrainians, but somehow Americans divided them all into pro- this or that. We believe that is a mistake. Let them settle their issues themselves. Everything that's been done there is unconstitutional, which has created distrust among various political groups and citizens, thus undermining Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and economy. That's what the United States has done and is doing in Ukraine and in Georgia. What we say is, leave them alone, without choosing sides.
When everyone saw that destabilization was under way in Ukraine, they tried to force Russia to subsidize the Ukrainian economy at our expense. Why? If you want to support someone, you pay for it. Nobody wants to pay. In this room, I once discussed this with a European politician and I said, you pay for it, and he replied, am I an idiot? Well, I'm not an idiot either. One has to look at the real problem. We should not be guided by generalities, and the situation prevailing there is very dangerous in my view. Everything must be done to consolidate society, consolidate the country. Strategically, it would be right that the pro-Russian, pro-Western groups would unite and think about the future of their own country and create such a power structure that would only further consolidate the nation rather than divide it among the Westerners, Southerners or Easterners, or whatever.
What is happening now is a movement toward further destruction, which is a pity because Ukraine is very close to us and because almost half of the population have either friends or relatives in Russia. There are 17 million ethnic Russians there, officially. Almost 100% of the people consider Russian as their mother tongue. [Note: Some opinion polls indicate that as few as about 25% of Ukrainians consider Russian their mother tongue.]
TIME: Do you think Ukraine will ever again become part of Russia?
PUTIN: Of course not. We don't want it. We do not want to include anyone into Russia again because for us it would only bring an additional economic burden. We want to realize our national competitive advantage in the world economy. We can only speak of economic integration. It's quite useless to try to force upon anyone new state structures without the will of the relevant people. In the modern world, it's not even necessary. Look at Europe, where national borders are no longer as important as they used to be.
In the interview, Putin also conveniently 'forgot' that in the 1st December 1991 Ukrainian referendum, over 84% of Ukrainians voted for independence. Here's what he said to 'Time':
"What did the collapse of the Soviet Union mean? Twenty-five million Soviet citizens who were ethnic Russians found themselves beyond the borders of new Russia. Nobody gave thought to them. Twenty-five million would make up a major European nation. Before taking a decision, one should consult the population. Do you want to live separate from the state you live in now? I'm confident that if we were to hold a referendum in many of the former Soviet republics, the vast majority would say no. But nobody asked them."
p.s. "The people who cast the votes don't decide an election, the people who count the votes do".. Joseph Stalin....