Putin says Crimea showcased ‘new capabilities’ of Russian military


Russian President Vladimir Putin  meets with newly appointed, high-ranking military officers during a ceremony at the Kremlin on Friday. (Reuters/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with a number of military officers at the Kremlin on Friday to commend them on their service, saying that they had performed well in recent tests.

"The recent events in Crimea were a serious test, demonstrating the quality of the new capabilities of our military personnel, as well as the high moral spirit of the staff," Putin said at the ceremony, according to a translation from the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

A few observers have been a little surprised by this statement. At the height of the tension in Crimea, when armed men who really looked like soldiers surrounded Ukrainian military bases, Putin dismissed claims that there were Russian soldiers on the ground on the peninsula. He instead argued that they were just "very well-trained self-defense forces" who had bought their uniforms from stores. Yet a number of experts said the troops really did look a lot like Russian soldiers, and even some of these "self-defense forces" were caught on camera saying they were Russian troops.

So, did Putin just admit he was lying? Perhaps the Russian president would argue that he was referring to the Black Sea Fleet personnel stationed in Sevastopol or that the Russian military entered Crimea only after the successful referendum to join Russia.

Either way, the talk of "new capabilities" here is unlikely to calm Western nerves. In an interview with CBS News broadcast Thursday, President Obama called on Putin to move troops back from Ukraine's border.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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