Russian Officials Keep Up Tough Talk On Ukraine

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- "The Moscow Times" reported on April 8 that President Vladimir Putin said at the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Bucharest that Russia will work to break up Ukraine if that country joins NATO.

Muscle-flexing Russian ex-President Putin is maintaining pressure on Ukraine and NATO.

Citing a report in the daily "Kommersant" from April 7, "The Moscow Times" suggested that an unidentified foreign delegate described Putin as "losing his temper" at the meeting and saying to U.S. President George W. Bush: "do you understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state!"

Putin reportedly claimed that Russia will encourage the separation of eastern Ukraine and the Crimea from Ukraine if that country joins NATO.

"The Moscow Times" added that "Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who accompanied Putin at the summit, said he did not hear Putin's purported remarks about Ukraine and could not confirm the report."

On April 8, the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that the United States addressed some of Russia's fears regarding missile defense at the Bush-Putin summit in Sochi on April 6 but "where NATO's expansion is concerned, however, I cannot say I've noticed any indication of readiness to allay our fears."

On April 7, Interfax quoted State Duma Speaker and Unified Russia leader Boris Gryzlov as saying that Russia will "review" its relations with any CIS member state that joins NATO.

He noted that it is the business of other states to decide whether to join the Atlantic alliance but the business of Russia to decide how to react.

On April 8, Interfax quoted Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin as saying that any decision by Ukraine to join NATO will lead to unspecified "consequences" in its relations with Russia.

Chernomyrdin, who was a Soviet-era gas specialist, served as Russian prime minister from 1992-98.

He made his remarks on Ukraine at a reception to mark his 70th birthday and to present his book "We Tried Our Best."

Many remember him for his quote from 1993 that "we wanted the best, but things turned out like always."

Source: Radio Free Europe