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Ukraine and nuclear missiles dominate Putin's annual press address

Ukraine and nuclear missiles dominate Putin's annual press address
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Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about Russia’s bailout of Ukraine during the opening minutes of his annual press conference in Moscow on Thursday.

He described buying 11 billion euros of Ukraine’s debt as an act of brotherly love to stave off economic crisis rather than something designed to keep Kiev out of the European Union’s clutches.

“This (the aid to Ukraine) is not at all linked to (protests at) Maidan (Independence Square), nor with the EU-talks that Ukraine leads… We’re just seeing that Ukraine is in dire straits and we should support her,” said Putin, addressing thousands of journalists gathered in the Moscow Trade Centre.

Putin went on to reassure the West about Russia’s military intentions. He said Moscow had not yet decided whether to deploy controversial Iskander missiles near the Polish border in Kaliningrad.

“There’s an important part of US strategic arms advanced into Europe’s periphery – anti-missile shield. We’ve said many times that AMS is a threat to us, to our nuclear potential, and that we’re bound to react to it in one way or another,” said the president.

Putin did not respond directly to a question about failing to persuade Ukraine to join a customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

He also brushed aside a question about who might succeed him when his presidency ends in 2018.