Vladimir Putin has lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago, saying the economic crisis that followed was so bad that he was forced into the moonlight as a taxi driver.
- Vladimir Putin described for the first time how he was personally affected by the fall of the Soviet Union
- He said the split of the USSR created a “major humanitarian tragedy”
- The comments are likely to spark speculation from critics accusing him of plotting to re-establish the Soviet Union and attack Ukraine.
Sir. Putin described for the first time how he was personally affected by the hard economic times that followed the Soviet collapse, when Russia suffered double-digit inflation.
“Sometimes [I] had to moonlight and drive a taxi. “It’s uncomfortable to talk about this, but unfortunately it also happened,” Mr Putin said.
In comments in a new documentary, and reported by the state news agency RIA, he called the death of the USSR “a dissolution of historic Russia under the name of the Soviet Union.”
“We became a completely different country. And what had been built up over 1,000 years was largely lost.”
He said the collapse of the Soviet Union left 25 million Russian people in newly independent countries suddenly cut off from Russia, part of what he called “a major humanitarian tragedy”.
The Russian president’s comments are likely to boost speculation about his foreign policy intentions among critics, who accuse him of planning to re-establish the Soviet Union and of considering an attack on Ukraine, a notion that the Kremlin has dismissed as intimidating.
Putin, who served in the Soviet KGB, has previously called the collapse of the Soviet-led Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical disaster” of the 20th century.
But his new comments show how he saw it specifically as a setback for Russian power.
Ukraine was one of 15 Soviet republics, and Mr Putin used a lengthy article published on the Kremlin’s website this year to explain why he believed Russia’s southern neighbor and its people were an integral part of Russian history and culture.
This view is rejected by Kiev as a politically motivated and simplistic version of history.
The West has accused Russia of gathering tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine in preparation for a possible attack as early as January.
The group of seven rich democracies on Sunday warned Moscow of massive consequences and serious costs if it attacked Ukraine.
The Kremlin has said that Russia has no plans to launch a new attack on Ukraine, and that the West appears to have convinced itself of Moscow’s aggressive intentions based on what it calls false Western media stories.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean region in 2014 and has supported separatists who took control of part of eastern Ukraine in the same year and who continue to fight the Ukrainian government forces.
Reuters / ABC