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Putin blames West for Ukraine 'tragedy'

President Vladimir Putin has signaled that Russia intends to stay in "sacred" Crimea, part of Ukraine annexed in March. And he's blamed "risky" judgements by Western powers for what he calls the "tragedy" in Ukraine.

Putin in his annual state-of-the-nation speech on Thursday asserted that Russia was "open to the world" and sought ties with "strategic partners," but he insisted that outside powers would never gain military superiority over Russia.

Sanctions imposed especially on Russia's financial sector had led to difficulties that Russia would overcome by relying upon its own resources, Putin said.

Russia's army was ready, he added, and decisions were being taken to guarantee the nation's "military sufficiency."

Breakup 'impossible'

He went on to say that any attempt to bring about a breakup of Russia as in Yugoslavia in the 90s was "impossible."

Russia had withstood policies of "containment" for centuries, he said.

"I want to stress: either we will be sovereign, or we will dissolve in the world. And, of course, other nations must understand this as well," he told lawmakers, cabinet ministers and community leaders in a large Kremlin auditorium.

Referring to US plans for a missile defense shield in Europe, he said there was no point in others trying to talk to Russia from a position of strength.

"Every time someone believes Russia has become too strong, independent, these instruments get applied immediately," he said, referring to sanctions.

Speech coincides with OSCE conference

Putin gave his annual address as Russia heads into sanctions-induced recession amid its worst standoff with the West since the Cold War over the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March and has been widely accused of supplying pro-Russian separatists in southeastern Ukraine with ammunition and manpower.

EU-Außenbeauftragte Federica Mogherini

Mogherini accuses Putin of destabilizing Ukraine

Putin spoke in Moscow as foreign ministers of some 50 countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) met for their annual conference in Basel, Switzerland.

Principles violated, says EU's Mogherini

The EU's new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the conference that Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its destabilizing role in eastern Ukraine had seriously violated the OSCE's principles.

"It is clear that little can be achieved without Russia's genuine commitment and constructive engagement," she said, calling on Moscow to stop its military support of pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Arriving in Basel, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said: "It is not a Ukrainian crisis, it is not an OSCE crisis, it is about Russian aggression."

Truce crumbles

The conflict in Ukraine has left some 4,300 people dead. A long-awaited local truce around the flashpoint Donetsk airport appeared to crumble on Wednesday.

The OSCE has some 500 monitors in Ukraine.

Referring to an armed standoff in Chechnya, Putin said during his speech that he was confident that local Chechen forces would deal with the attack in Grozny.

ipj/tj (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

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