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Putin – a clear and present danger to democracy

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IN February 2014, following a meeting with his security chiefs that lasted all night, Vladimir Putin said: "We must start working on returning Crimea to Russia". By March 18 that year he had achieved his objective, effectively annexing Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as two federal subjects of the Russian Federation. So far, in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, more than 13,000 people have been killed and over 30,000 injured, many innocent civilians. In a particular outrage during the early months of the conflict, Russian separatists used a Buk missile to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 en-route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 passengers and crew. The missile system had been shipped into Ukraine from Russia. It was hurriedly returned to Russia following the tragedy, responsibility for which was strenuously denied by Putin.

The seizure of Crimea was simply the latest example of Putin’s attempt to recreate the former Soviet empire. In August 2008 he annexed more than 20% of Georgian territory. The regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both scenes of violent separatist conflicts which left thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless, are virtual no-go areas. Putin allows limited visits to Abkhazia by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), but South Ossetia has become a Russian military camp and the ill-defined demarcation lines established by the Russians are blockaded with tangled razor wire, guarded by military watchtowers.

Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee during the 2008 war. Georgian government ministers claim that those who remain inside the two occupied........

© Herald Scotland