Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of exploiting the crash of Malaysian Air flight 17 to force him to renounce support for people of Russian heritage in Ukraine. The downing of the passenger plane galvanized sentiment against Russia in the EU, which has imposed softer sanctions than the U.S. to punish Putin’s decision to annex Crimea in March and his alleged backing of the uprising in Ukraine’s easternmost regions.
“Russia is virtually being presented with ultimatums, either let us destroy a population that is close to Russia or we will introduce some sanctions against you,” Putin said. “It’s a strange logic and, of course, absolutely unacceptable.”
Putin is trying to refute accusations that pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine shot down MH17 over their territory, killing all 298 people aboard, with a surface-to-air missile supplied by his country. Russia is doing all it can to ensure a thorough investigation and will try to influence Ukrainian rebels to cooperate, he said, calling the crash a “terrible tragedy.”
Putin called to strengthen Russia’s borders and defense capabilities amid what he called a “defiant” buildup of NATO in eastern Europe.