Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that the “ball” is in America's court as it looks to step back from war with Ukraine.
Answering questions from the world's media at his end-of-year press conference, Putin was adamant that he is not the aggressor when it comes to tensions brewing in the region, as the US has begun supporting Ukrainian troops on the border.
He said: “The US is placing rockets at our doorstep.
“How would the US react if we delivered rockets near their borders with Canada or Mexico?
Putin then accused American leaders of having “brazenly lied to us” about NATO’s “five waves of expansion.”
He added: “Did we approach their borders? No. They approached ours – it feels like the West and Russia live in different worlds.”
He did confirm that he was not looking for war with Ukraine, and said it could be avoided if “Western powers” gave Moscow “unconditional security guarantees”.
Putin also defended Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support of rebels in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, saying that inhabitants of both regions had “always thought of themselves as Russians”.
When asked how he could give an order to attack Ukraine, Putin hit back, asking the journalists present to “ask the Ukrainian authorities how can they shell their own citizens”, the Moscow Times reports.
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He also said that he was ready to “create a better future for the people living there” and blamed leaders in Kiev who, he claims “refuse to talk to representatives of the Donbass”.
However, it wasn't all negative, as he did admit that ongoing negotiations with US leaders were “positive”.
On Russia's economy, he said that the country has recovered “better” from the pandemic compared to many other countries, and that he expects real incomes to rise by 3.5% over the next year.
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