Russia: Putin pressed on MH17, Crimea and Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an interview to Armin Wolf, a news presenter at the Austrian public broadcaster ORF, in Moscow on Monday, the eve of his working visit to Austria. In the wide-ranging interview, Putin faced repeated questions about Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine, and the future sovereignty of Crimea. Wolf, regarded as 'one of Europe's... Еще most skilled (and feared) political journalists' by Politico magazine, cross-examined Putin over claims made by a Dutch inquiry that a Russian army missile system was used to attack flight MH17. The Russian premier disputed the inquiry's conclusions on two fronts. Firstly, he pointed out that both sides in the Donbass conflict possess the same Russian-made weapons purportedly used to bring down the passenger plane. Secondly, Putin felt that Russian experts were denied access to the investigation. «If we really want to get to the bottom of things in that horrendous event and reveal all the factors that would allow us to render a final conclusion, all arguments should be taken into account, including the ones offered by Russia,» he concluded. The Russian premier did however express sorrow for the 298 people who died on board flight MH17. He said: «The tragedy we are talking about is terrible, and I feel immensely sorry for the victims and their families.» The conversation then moved onto the topic of Crimea. Asked whether there was a possibility of the Republic of Crimea ever returning to Ukraine, Putin responded clearly. «There are no such conditions and there can never be.» The Russian President defended Crimeans' right to self-determination, as enshrined by the UN Charter. «Crimea gained independence through the free will of the Crimeans expressed in an open referendum, not as a result of an invasion by Russian forces,» maintained Putin. «You are talking about annexation, but can we call a referendum held among all people living in the region 'annexation'?» he added. Putin will hold talks with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna on June 5.

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