HARI SREENIVASAN: For more we’re joined via Google Plus from St. Petersburg by Paul Ingrassia, managing editor for the Reuters News Service. He and a group of foreign journalists met today with Russian President Putin. So, it was a very small audience, what are the headlines from this meeting?
PAUL INGRASSIA: Well, you know, it was an interesting meeting. It was three hours. And I think what really became clear during the whole meeting was that, you know, President Putin feels a real sense of aggrievement by the west. And especially, I would say by the United States, you know, for not taking into account what he regards as Russia’s needs, Russia’s security interests, etc. He said he does not want the resumption of a Cold War. He said he does not want to recreate the former U.S.S.R., or anything like that.
But he also clearly feels that Russia’s entitled to the respect of his interests as he sees them from western countries. He was, you know, clearly more oriented toward Europe and the European Union, reaching out to there more than to the United States. At one point he was asked do you talk very often with President Obama and the answer, he sort of shrugged, and said, well, we talk occasionally, but I have to leave now, so I’m going to talk to Mr. Hollande and Mrs. Merkel.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Everybody has got to have probably been asking him about the election coming up tomorrow and what that does for Russia and the troops that are right along the Ukrainian border.
PAUL INGRASSIA: Yeah, he did say he would honor, respect the wishes of the Ukrainian people, but it wasn’t quite as simple as an answer, if you will, Hari. What he did say was he’ll respect the results of the election, the decision of the Ukrainian people, but he thinks they’re doing it all wrong. He said several times there was a coup d’état in Ukraine, and it’s basically an unlawful government. He said he’s offered to have mediation with Ukraine, and that he’s been rebuffed about that.
You know, he maintained time and again, of course, that Crimea voted freely and independently to join Russia, and therefore, you know, the right to self-determination should be respected. He said he believed that really the replacement, the deposement really of President Yanukovych of Ukraine was something that was outside of the bounds of law, and he’s the lawful president of the country.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, was there anything that surprised you about the meeting?
PAUL INGRASSIA: Well, I think, what did surprise me, honestly, was the intensity, if you will, of his feeling of aggrievement. He really seems to feel that the west sort of willfully ignored Russia and relegated Russia to more of a second-class status over the last 20 years, and he thinks Russia’s legitimate interests were ignored. And as he put it, we had no choice but to take decisive action to prevent independent Ukraine from joining NATO. Just the depth of his feeling, about this aggrieved sentiment, was sort of surprising, actually.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Paul Ingrassia of Reuters News Service joining us from St. Petersburg via Google Plus, thanks so much.
PAUL INGRASSIA: Okay, thank you.