While speaking about the recent drone attack on the Russian Hmeymim base in Syria, Vladimir Putin said that he believed Turkey had nothing to do with the issue amid reports that, allegedly, the drones had been delivered from Turkey.“There were provocateurs there but they were not Turks, we know who was it was… We know, how much and whom they have paid for this provocation,” Putin said.The attack was a provocation, aimed at undermining Russia’s relations with its partners, including Turkey, Vladimir Putin said, adding that Russia had taken additional measures to protect its military facilities in Syria.“Firstly, these are provocations aimed at the collapse of the earlier reached agreements. Secondly, that is also an attempt to destroy our relations with partners — Turkey and Iran. We clearly understand that, and therefore we will show solidarity,” Putin said.The Russian leader furthermore said that the attacks had been thoroughly planned.“Concerning the attacks, we have no doubts that they had been well prepared, we know when and where these drones were transferred, as well as the number of drones,” Putin added.On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Russian military in Syria had disrupted a massive attack with the use of battle drones on its facilities in the country on January 6, intercepting six and shooting down seven more UAVs launched by militants.On Relations With the US“The US is constantly attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and considers this normal practice,” Vladimir Putin said, adding that the US itself behaved aggressively in response to rumors of Russia’s alleged interference in the US 2016 presidential election.The Russian president has reiterated his position, saying that claims of Russian interference in the latest US elections were nonsense, adding that the anti-Russian card has repeatedly been played to threaten Donald Trump with impeachment.
While speaking about relations between the US and Russia, Vladimir Putin said that Russia was ready to improve the bilateral relations, but a lot depended on the US itself.
“It [normalization of ties] does not depend on us. We are ready… but the internal political situation in the United States is not settling down. We see that and understand that the ‘Russian card’ is played in US political life, the incumbent US president [Donald Trump] is constantly threatened with impeachment and the imaginary intervention of Russia is used as a reason for it,” Putin noted.
At the same time, Putin noted that any illegal unilateral sanctions against Russia by Washington would deteriorate bilateral relations.
“All steps aimed at any kind of restrictions and at illegal sanctions — I would say it is absolutely clear that they are illegal — will hinder our relations,” the president said.
On Talks With the US on the START Treaty
Vladimir Putin expressed hope for the positive results of the ongoing Russian-US talks on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
The president said that the US side has said they want to transform some aircraft and submarines used to carry nuclear arms into the kind of objects that could not be used to carry nuclear weapons.
Putin stressed that this could be done under the treaty but only if the other side was able to verify that there was no potential for reverse conversion of such objects.
“We do not have the necessary evidence yet. And that causes some concerns for us. But the dialogue is ongoing and I hope it will be positive,” Putin said.
On the North Korean Issue
The Russian president noted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a competent and mature politician, who managed to “win his game.”
“I think that Mr. Kim Jong Un has undoubtedly won this game. He fulfilled his long-term task — he has a nuclear bomb, has a long-range missile — with a range of up to 13,000 kilometers [over 8,000 miles] — which can reach any place on the Earth, at least any place belonged to his possible rival… He [Kim] is an absolutely competent and already mature politician,” Putin said at a meeting with heads of Russian media outlets, adding that the North Korean leader was likely to be interested in de-escalation of tensions in the region.