Vladimir Putin has issued a thinly-veiled threat to former Soviet Union countries – warning they could share the same fate as Ukraine for defying Russia.
The Russian President made clear he would not hesitate to take the same action against them should they turn against the Kremlin, and would no longer ‘be allies’ with the country.
Mr Putin’s comments followed those of the president of Kazakhstan, who had described the pro-Russian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas as ‘quasi-states territories’.
As Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sat metres away from him at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, he claimed Kazakhstan – which left the USSR in 1991 – was part of ‘historic Russia’.
‘What is the Soviet Union? This is historic Russia,’ Mr Putin said, before praising Kazakhstan as a brotherly nation.
‘The same thing could have happened with Ukraine, absolutely, but they wouldn’t be our allies.’
The words were interpreted as a ‘clear threat’, with a Kazakhstan-based expert claiming the Russian president had been humiliated by Mr Tokayev, and so was ‘making him aware that Kazakhstan may be Russia’s next prey’, according to The Telegraph.
Another commented: ‘He’s saying that if you are good neighbours, that’s fine. But if you step out of line and go pro-West, we can conquer your land because it’s ours.’
At the same conference in St Petersburg, Mr Putin said he anticipated Russia and Ukraine would restore relations after the ‘special military operation’ had concluded.
‘Sooner or later, the situation will return to normal,’ he added, during a Q&A session with Mr Tokayev.
It is not the first time Kazakhstan has denied the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, with its foreign minister, Mukhtar Tileuberdi, doing so in March.
The Kremlin has been accusing Kazakhstan – along with both Ukraine and Georgia – of hosting US biological laboratories.
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