Putin admits unmarked soldiers in Ukraine were Russian; optimistic about Geneva talks

BY Willis Raburu  April 17, 2014 at 11:45 AM EDT
An employee wipes a TV screen in a shop in Moscow Thursday during the broadcast of President Vladimir Putin's televised question and answer session with the nation. Photo by Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

An employee wipes a TV screen in a shop in Moscow Thursday during the broadcast of President Vladimir Putin’s televised question and answer session with the nation. Photo by Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

For a long time, Russian President Vladimir Putin remained silent over the involvement of Russian troops in Crimea. However, speaking on a televised call-in show Thursday, Putin admitted for the first time that the troops present in Crimea wearing unmarked uniforms were Russian soldiers.

Putin also reaffirmed his claims that Russian special forces are not stirring unrest in eastern Ukraine.

“It’s all nonsense, there are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine,” he said.

Putin holds that protests in the east of Ukraine are driven by the locals while taking issue with Ukrainian authorities’ decisions to use the military to tackle the protests. He added that the West, who is urging him to disarm protesters in the east of Ukraine, must also apply equal pressure to the Ukrainian government to pull its army back.

“They are sending tanks, armored personnel carriers and cannons there!” said Putin. “Have they gone nuts?”

The Russian president, however, was optimistic about talks in Geneva involving the European Union, Ukraine, Russia and the United States — the first meeting of its kind since the beginnings of the Ukraine crisis.

“I think the start of today’s talks is very important, as it’s very important now to think together about how to overcome this situation and offer a real dialogue to the people,” Putin said.