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Putin says organised 'militant groups' behind Ukraine protests

Putin says organised 'militant groups' behind Ukraine protests
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Hundreds of people have marched through the Armenian capital Yerevan to denounce the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and express their solidarity with pro-European rallies in Ukraine.

They strongly oppose Armenia’s decision in September to pull out of an association agreement with the EU and instead to join a Moscow-led customs union.

Police blocked a street as demonstrators tried to reach government buildings.

Local media reported more than 100 arrests.

Amid obvious echoes of the east-west conflict in Ukraine, the visiting Russian leader went on the offensive.

Vladimir Putin said he thought events in Ukraine were “more like a pogrom than a revolution”, and that the demonstrators were “very well prepared and trained militant groups”.

“In my view this is an attempt by the opposition to shake the current and – I want to emphasise – legitimate authorities in the country. And what’s more, what’s taking place right now – it’s absolutely not a revolution, but a well-planned protest, that in my view is not aimed at today, but is directed at the presidential election campaign in March 2015,” he told a news conference.

Critics of the Kremlin have accused Putin of pressurising former Soviet republics such as Armenia and Ukraine to reject deals that would lead to greater integration with the EU.

The Russian president wants to increase Moscow’s influence in the strategically important South Caucasus, and said the customs union had already brought “tangible dividends” with Belarus and Kazakhstan.